There was an interesting meeting this morning in Downtown St. Petersburg. A rather eclectic group gathered at 8 ish to talk about artists and the arts in St. Petersburg. Included in this group:
Former Director of a theatre foundation
An attorney who is also a singer and actor
A gallery owner
A volunteer public art docent
A poet and promoter
An art gallery marketing director
A travel writer
An executive from the Pinells County Cultural Council
A Political and governmental relations consultant (guess who)
These were all members of a group that had met regularly for about 2 years until it sort of dwindled away. The group is fairly loosely organized, as befits the varied nature of its participants. There is no formal agenda. There is no chair person. People come and go as necessary. Nonetheless, the group has had a measurable impact on many things in St. Petersburg in the past few years.
The Manhattan Casino restoration was one of the first projects the group took on. The groups' efforts helped set the tone and feel for how the old ballroom upstairs was refurbished. If only we could get the soul food restaurant on the ground floor that we supported. Oh, well. Maybe someday in the not too distant future.
Also, the idea and practice of artists being able to live and work in the same location was spearheaded by the Friday Morning Group. A pair of very well known artists had moved to town and wanted to have their studio on the ground floor and live upstairs in an abondoned garment factory in the Old South East, Well, the city codes inspectors were really scratching their heads over that one. After much effort and consulatation, the city finally figured it out and our artist couple is now well ensconced in the old bra factory. (They hate it when I call it that.)
The Studio@620 is something that came directly out of the Friday Morning Group. The co-art directors were both charter members of the group. The group also put a lot of time in discussing the Florida Orchestra. The new, more casual look of the Orchestra's catolog is a direct result of the groups' conversation with the Orchetra. The Florida Orchestra is moving its headquarters to St.Pete due in no small measure to the efforts of the group.
A couple of years ago, a reporter from Creative Loafing sat in on one of the meetings of the group. We were discussing the Chamber of commerce brochure that proclaimed on its cover that St. Petersburg was the "City of the Arts". Well, our artists particularly thought that was just pretentious as hell and were pretty contemptible of the whole idea. Yes St. Petersburg is a good place for artists. It could be better. But to proclaim St. Pete as The City of the Arts? Hello.So we were discussing this foolishness and kicking around ideas. One of our memebers came up with this:
St. Petersburg is not the City of the Arts, the city is the art.
That comment wound up in print. I think that's a pretty good explanation of the Friday Morning Group. The beautiful City of St. Petersburg is the canvas that is our art work in progress. We continue to put more creative touches on it all the time.
It is a never ending project of love.