Is Tampa Bay ready for an Arts Renaissance

We’ve heard it all now. Or most of it, anyway.

The Creative Class. Richard Florida. The “culturally curious.” City/NFP partnerships. All these transplants that have the fever for more art like they were used to back home. The throngs of 30-something hip cultured folks that are going to invade Downtown any minute now. Mayor Iorio’s “City of the Arts.”

But then we hear the other stuff, too: brain drain, lack of support, flight to bigger and better cities, that the area cares more about a scene (as in being a scenester) than they do about the actual art, that all these groups are too clique-ish and insular, that this area is too blue-collar and the government too old-boy to ever change.

So, are we ready? Where are we, really? Is the current ‘doom and gloom’ cast by war, oil, the economy, health care and everything else foreshadowing a potential renaissance? Or is this just the latest in a catch-phrase-come-book-turned-speaking-tour?

Now that I’ve been in Tampa 10 years come August, I think that’s still entirely up for debate. I see progress and regression. As we likely will see until one side wins out. I like to consider myself (and Jobsite) part of the solution. I personally see more progress than regression, but it is very often two steps forward one step back – which can be frustrating. I’m good at keeping the perspective of that forward motion, and that leads to feeling more accomplished than stepped on.

Where do you see yourself? Are you active? Are you at the very least providing lip service (that is if you don’t ever actually go do anything) or if you are active are you going deeper into your circles and generating word of mouth? If you’re a talker, moaner, complainer, bandwagoner or just vocal fan – are you putting your money where your mouth is?

If you’re reading this, you probably are. This be the choir over here, where I typically preach. But there are way too many people in this area (officials, various committee members, business folks, “movers and shakers”, scenesters and even some of the artists themselves) that are way too much talk with so very little action.

Read this CreLo article that talks about the “RenGen” and marketing guru Patricia Martin’s Tampa visit. I’ve already jumped into the comments there, and I encourage you to do the same.

Be part of the solution, it’s so much easier than most folks think.



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3 Responses

  1. The area is ready for the arts and can be much better, but some of the clutter needs to be swept out and cleaned away. Jobsite has always provided great theater, but there are other companies in the area that need to put the money where the mouth is. The community works if the money that’s made is put back into the community. Some of Tampa’s theater community seems happy to collect the paycheck and keep it all to themselves and then wonder why the talent and extra support runs to “better” cities. Also, remember that Pam Iorio has always touted herself as (and been touted as) a “supporter of the arts” and as wants Tampa to be a “city of the arts” but when push came to shove with the budget cuts the first (and fastest) thing to go was funding for the arts. Maybe a change in the political atmosphere would help push a little in the right direction.

  2. I totally agree David.
    I became frustrated a few months ago. I work for a City Government in Pinellas. I came up with an idea to do two Shakespeare shows in the summer. I presented the idea ( not even looking for $ or anything ) and it was shot down because “this area would not pay to see Shakespeare”. Then she told me the area is too blue collar for that type of show. So I decided I was going to write NASCAR: The Musical. I think this area NEEDS more arts and LESS excuses.

  3. I think a lot of people are wrong about Shakespeare. Titus Andronicus for quite a long time was one of our biggest successes as far as attendance goes. We’ve almost put another Shakespeare on the season a few times, but to be very honest we’ve been holding out for more money and possibly a partnership with the city.

    We’ve love to revive real Shakespeare in the Park. We think we can do it in a setting where it would actually be about going to watch the show and not just be outside with a picnic and a bottle of wine – or worse a frisbee. Like that’s not distracting.

    We could do black box Shakespeare, and we almost have done. Maybe in 09-10? Maybe a little beyond that.

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