A Tale of Two Cities – Like the Book But Not as Hilarious

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…

My Misconception

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.

The Reality

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.

The Potential

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.

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6 Comments

  1. I agree that this divide exists. Although I occasionally show in Tampa, I’m as guilty as anyone of attending openings only in St. Pete. The only person I know who regularly hits both sides of the bay on any one night is Luis of the Art Taco – and he always seems exhausted by it.

    I enjoy seeing the art at openings, but the hours of BSing make me tired. By the time I’ve done that at four or five places in St Pete, the choice between crossing/getting stuck on one of the bridges OR going home for PJ’s and a snack is an easy one.

    Really, remove the requirement to be “on” all evening and give me better traffic control – and I’d be at Tampa openings a lot more often.

    Reply

    1. I feel about the same way. It’s not that easy in terms of energy and time. Maybe a solution like NYC’s would work – have one neighborhood’s openings on Thursdays and the other on Friday’s.

      Reply

  2. We attend events in Tampa too (especially adore Tracy at Tempus). We hope you can appreciate, though, that our heart belongs to St. Pete! 😉 Your different night suggestion sounds like a good one. Perhaps we can start an “Art Shuttle” (there’s already a “party shuttle” bringing folks to St. Pete from Tampa)?

    Reply

    1. I personally don’t feel particularly loyal to either (or maybe I’m completely loyal to both) but, yeah, I totally understand – St. Pete’s fan’s are serious. And I definitely can see why.
      And maybe that’s why it could be better that they stay seperate – it’s easier to be dedicated to a smaller neighborhood as opposed to a big one.

      Reply

  3. That is so true. We have 2 galleries, Nuance Galleries has been in S Tampa for over 30 years, Nuance St Pete has been open on Central Ave, St Pete for 4 months. Each side of the bay has it’s own vib and art scene. We are sharing the works of artists from one side to the other and its like they are showing their work on another planet. We are happy to be presenting the works of these great artists to a new world.

    Reply

    1. That’s very cool you have the opportunity to do something like that! I thought a real artist exchange between Tampa, St. Pete, and Sarasota would be a great project. That’s great you can do something similar yourself. More of this, please!

      Reply

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