Thursday, March 12, 2015

Part 4 A Casual Conversation with Wayne Atherholt St. Pete's New Director of Cultural Affairs

Recently I had the opportunity to set down with Wayne Atherholt, St. Pete's new Director of Cultural Affairs, to chat about the current status of St. Petersburg as a home for artists and as an arts destination.

We met in Wayne's office at City Hall.

My Questions are in Bold:

"The new program you presented has some bold plans regarding events. How will you proceed with implementing the plan?"

"One at a time," Wayne responded.

"I think creating a signature Arts Festival is important. It's the type of thing you can use as a hook to get international and domestic publicity for the City and focus on the arts that are already here.

So I think that the art festival is important for us to have. We really don't have an anchor arts festival. I think that is a critical element.

When the Suncoasters approached us about wanting to do a festival in the fall, I thought this was a perfect match as they have successfully managed festivals in the past and the City itself really isn’t a festival manager so a city-wide arts festival managed by the Suncoasters was very appealing. 

There would be a lot of artists employed and a lot of special events put into the time frame of the festival with ideas coming from the community or various arts districts to some type of festival programming committee when the time comes for that.

We have done some things already, sending someone to do the New York Travel Show for example and getting some leads there, sending someone to Art Basel to work the media. So we are moving in those directions to try to get some contacts, to try to get some ink if you will. Too expose the travel Bloggers, the writers and the travel editors to St. Petersburg.

So if we have this Arts Festival we have a news hook. It's not just visit "St. Petersburg" its visit "The St. Pete Arts Festival" and here is a ten day festival with 130 different things going.

In reality it's many of things we are normally doing, but when you package them up and throw together everything that is going on it is really impressive."

"In regard to the Arts Festival, are you looking for a corporate sponsor or someone to come in and be a part of the event," I asked?

"I think that would be great, but it should be something we can do without that if sponsorship didn't happen. It would be great if sponsorship did happen, it would be great to have multiple sponsors, and I’m sure the Suncoasters will be looking into all possibilities," Wayne began.
"I do think something like this event can be done with minimal effort and minimal sponsorships as we gather everything that is going on here and package it together pushing it out through a marketing and public relations, promotions, advertising effort using the City Marketing department and really get people here for the event.

When I  say the "event" it is everything going on: what is American Stage doing at that time, what's going on at the Mahaffey, what's going on at the Dali, what's Florida CraftArt doing, what's Duncan McClellan doing, you package all of that up with a couple of other mini Festivals. We are looking at doing a street art Festival maybe that goes under the same umbrella, there is a reading Festival, maybe we can push that into the event time period.

You are not spending a whole lot of money on product development what you are doing is packaging what we already have."

Wayne added, "There may be some corporate CEO somewhere reading this and thinking, wow I need to look at this market. Call us at 727-551-3250."

In the next Post Wayne addresses a concern from City Council regarding how much support is there in the arts community for this new approach

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