Sunday, December 25, 2011

On the Future of the 600 block

The leadership that it took to move the 600 block of St Petersburg, which was idle for years, past the stasis and into a showcase for community renovation in the arts has been an example to all neighboring communities. Unfortunately, the economy simultaneously tanked. We have seen lots of the artist tenants turn over, and in my private conversations with many others still there, I am hearing the same thing. They are hanging by a thread, and barring a quick turn-around, many will have to leave. We are already seeing some of the 600 block storefronts turning into retail shops. I have nothing against this, but the 600 block should not turn into a boutique strip mall. The City and artists had a very different vision for the area -- and realized it. Let's not allow this brief and shining moment to dim and go out.

I'm not sure what the best course to take is at this time, but this needs to be discussed out in the open between the tenant and the City. When it comes to the 600 block, we need to go the distance.



  1. I TOTALLY agree with you. I was so sad to see Studio 620 annex and others leave. I liked seeing the ARTIST'S presence. Boutiques are fine, but not there. Every time I drive by, it isn't the same seeing all the dresses in the windows. Yet, I can understand the problem too. As I type this, I am moving out of ArtLofts above Florida Craftsman Gallery. The primary reason is the economic feasibility. How can I pay the rent if there are no buyers? There are people in St. Pete who support visual artists, but not enough of them buy art. This is a true shame. :-(

  2. The city in itself has some emotional growth yet to come with understanding and supporting an art community, I feel this block venture really thrives on an art party and this is just not really about the curating or the art. It seems be deemed successful if there's a party going on and if a lot of people stay and buy a lot of beer. It seems like actually experiencing the exhibit is just a mildly entertaining aspect to the social event.

    The quality of art really seem to take a back seat to the other festivities. And those visitors to the venues generally do not have the intention to collect Art.

    This is a very different experience in other cities. So is it an issue with the actual art events? Or the demands of the patron to these art party

  3. I have been thinking about St. Petersburg and its impression of the visual arts for years. I am from Detroit. Despite the blight in this industrial city, there is a very vibrant art community. Also, there are art "collectors" that come to openings, stay in touch with artists, and even visit art studios by appointment. I have always wondered why this couldn't be the case in St. Petersburg.

    I am not sure if the idea of collecting art hasn't been nurtured. I don't know if this is an education issue or money issue. The money issue concept doesn't seem plausible. I mean, there are people here in Pinellas with money and wonderful homes. Are they buying art from other places? There are so many questions.

    As far as the party mentality, we partied big time in Detroit. However, the collectors were there to party with us. One huge difference was the parties were to celebrate and support fine art. It wasn't just a beer fest. We have to remember that St. Pete is built on a media foundation of a "fun and sun city". Things to do, places to go, have fun, fun, fun. That is what we promote. Also, the craft industry is hawked to the hilt. Cutting edge visual art is not even mentioned or promoted in the media most of the time. I don't know what the answer is. All I know is there are a lot of questions that we need to answer.