I think I’ve made a mistake. The first clue pointing to my error came with American Style‘s top ten list of mid-sized arts destinations. St. Pete and Tampa received first and third place respectively. Though both towns often fall under the “Tampa Bay” designation, they’re listed separately on this list. I mistakenly thought there is a “Tampa Bay” art scene.
I flow through the art scene regularly on both sides of the Bay. I don’t mean to imply that this is somehow unique. However, the people I know with a real stake in both scenes can be counted on a single hand. Is this really that big of a deal? Well…
The Tampa Bay Rays and the Tampa Bay Lighting are based on opposite sides of the Bay, but span our entire community. When I started participating in the local art scene, I thought the situation would be similar – St. Pete based artists would visit Tampa based galleries and vice versa. Locally acclaimed artists would have sway at either end of the Howard Frankland. Also, when outsiders (like American Style magazine) compare arts centers, they would consider the two cities as one arts community.
In reality Tampa Bay has two strong and independently growing art communities. Each city’s scene is doing remarkably well, but with little help from the other. For example, we have several locally acclaimed artists. Yet, consider this: if they’re based on one side of the bay, likely they don’t exhibit on the other side very often. Also, if you’re reading Art at Bay, you’re probably deeply involved with your respective art scene. But, how often do you make it to exhibits on the opposite side of the Bay? What’s remarkable is that the Tampa Bay area just happens to be fostering two very strong art scenes that, for the most part, are unrelated to each other.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not going to get sappy and encourage the cities unite. I really don’t care all that much – both scenes are doing great independent of each other. With that said, consider this just a suggestion.
I hate to use the cliché but…in our case the sum could be greater than its parts. If the #1 and #3 mid-sized arts destination honestly supported each other – both audiences regularly attending exhibits and artists exhibiting regularly on both sides of the bay – Tampa Bay can become one amazing art scene with an actual bearing on the national scene. And if not, it’ll still be great to see where these separate parts take us.