Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Heights, Fire Inspections, and Johnna Guzman

  Art doesn't happen in a vacuum. A lot of the time it requires a building to house it. The same goes for art parties. One of the great venues for parties in Tampa is "The Heights", AKA "The Trolley Barn" and "Tampa Armature Works", all having to do with the 100 yr old building's various incarnations. It is a 70,000 sq. ft. building in three long rectangular partitions.

Johnna Guzman is an event coordinator who put on a great and successful art party and show for the Dogma pet rescue people earlier this year called "Barkin Hearts", with an Alice in Wonderland theme (and fire eaters!). In between, there's been several events held at The Heights, some of which Art Taco (AT) attended, including Oktoberfest (where AT was an er...uninvited guest) and the Refractory Show, which was reviewed here. More than 6,000 people attended Oktoberfest, drinking 102 kegs in 3 days. Thousands came for Nude Nite, Pride on Seventh and Tampa Bay Fashion Week. The Fire Dept could see no problems with the building for any of those events.

The problem is that the structure does not meet fire safety codes, according to Tampa Fire Marshall Russell Spicola. Of course, it hasn't met them for a very long time, over the course of several events. Halloween Haunted Houses reportedly have stricter requirements, such as the flammability of the materials used. However, some of the deficiencies noted by the Fire Dept have little to do with that, and should have applied to all events there, such as the lack of illuminated fire exits.

The Fire Dept ended up pulling the Plug on Dogma's benefit less than a week before it was to go on. Ms. Guzman lost $5,000 plus her revenues for putting on the event. Dogma lost a fundraiser, and Tampa, a great party.

Darren Booth of The Heights' development, has agreed to comply with the TFD demands and is working on a plan to bring everything up to code. It is a real shame that this show was cancelled, and that nothing could be worked out to allow it to go on. The lesson here for all event coordinators is to check with the TFD as to the viability of the venue, whether it has been approved for Public Assembly, etc. and get it written into the contract.

Ms. Guzman is an irresistible force, and AT looks forward to her next event.

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