Thursday, August 23, 2012

Art Taco's Guide for 2012 RNC Conventioneers

Welcome to Tampa and St. Petersburg! You have come to a beautiful area rich with indigenous art, cuisine and history. I realize that your time here will be spent mostly at the Convention and pre-planned, canned, mostly corporate events.

Make a little time to see our fair City. I would like to make a few recommendations:

In Ybor City:

Hillsborough County Community College Art Gallery, Ybor Campus: The Cuban Sandwich Show. An exhibit that is densepacked with art reflecting local culture history and vision as seen through the hearts of some of our best artists. I reviewed it here [Link]. Open through August 30th.

  Hillsborough Community College's Art Gallery is located in the Performing Arts Building Room 114 on the Ybor City Campus located at 2204 N. 15th Street Tampa, FL 33605. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Tuesdays from 12 noon to 7 p.m. The gallery is open to the public, and admission is free for everyone. Click here for a map of the campus. For further information or to arrange special hours, contact Gallery Coordinator, Carolyn Kossar at  or 813-253-7674.

While you are in Ybor, before hitting the bars, stop by the Stone Soup Company [Link]. The soups rock, but I suggest you try their Cuban Sandwich. Then walk east on 7th ave. about 50 feet to the King Corona Cafe. Have a cafe con leche, smoke a cigar, or sit outside. Ask for Don Barco or Joe Howden. Tell them where you're from. If they have time, and you're lucky, maybe they'll tell you a story. Buy a guayabera, a classic shirt worn by Cubans, and buy a few cigars to take home. If you have time, take one of Howden's tours. [Link]. Want to mingle with local hispters? Try The Bricks, a couple of blocks West, at 1327 E. Seventh Ave. [Link]. Classic dining? Try the Columbia Restaurant [Link]. Great food, authentic digs and every tourist has to eat there at least once. For a laid-back Ybor bar experience, the New World Brewery [Link].

In Tampa, take refuge from the wind and rain in the Tampa Museum, right next to the big RNC tent in Curtis Hixon Park [Link]  there's great shows of 100 years of chairs (fascinating) and political posters, all very topical. Make a point to go to the cube building at Kennedy Blvd and Ashley (400 Ashley), to the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts [Link] where they have a great Civil War exhibit and portraits of powerful people by Platon. On the way in or out, try the coffee at Kahwa cafe in the ground floor. For nearby food, an overlooked gem is the Bamboozle Cafe which is extraordinarily good. Their teas are fabulous. [Link]. All at 516 Tampa St. For the dive bar experience, try The Hub [Link]. For a newly-reopened historical/classic lounge experience, try the Floridan Hotel bar. [Link]. Mobsters and power brokers frequented it back in the day. It has been beautifully restored. Jon Stewart and his Daily Show will be taping at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. Get there before 6 PM. at 1010 N. Mc Innes Place. For something completely different, you can eat like the King, where Elvis ate at Nicko's, an old-school diner at 4603 N. Florida Avenue.

Head to Howard Avenue for dinner at Bern's steak House and dessert @ Side Bern's. A stellar restaurant and its dessert room (in an adjacent building, where the booths are old wine barrels) [Link].

The West Tampa Center for the Arts has a political show titled "Common Sense". It is at 1906 Armenia.

2012 Show Dates/Times

Monday August 27th “Morning in America”, a temporary monument by featured artists Ligorano/Reese  (To Be Displayed at Lykes Gaslight Square.  Early Afternoon - Early Evening)

Monday August 27th from 10 am until 6 pm (Soft Opening – “Common Sense”)

Tuesday August 28th from 10 am until 10 pm (“Common Sense” Artist Reception 6 pm – 10 pm)

Wednesday August 29th from 10 am until 6 pm

Thursday August 30th from 10 am until 4 pm (“Common Sense” Closing Day)


St Petersburg is only a 30 min. drive from downtown Tampa (further to the Tropicana RNC festivities). In St. Pete, the Museum of Fine Arts is a first-class small museum with a beautiful glass show at this time [Link]. Their gift shop is a good place to pick up souvenirs. Nearby is the Mindy Solomon Gallery [Link]. On Beach Drive is the Park Shore Grill  [Link]. Another great, perhaps more chi-chi restaurant is Bella Brava at 204 Beach Drive. A little further is the Chilhuly Glass Collection, beautiful glass by a master [Link]. Heading out on Central Ave (towards the Tropicana) are several art galleries worth your time. Florida Craftsmen Gallery, at 501 Central has a show designed for RNC Conventioneers. The 600 block of Central is full of galleries. Further on Central, at 2955, Craftsman House Gallery has beautiful things and a politically themed show.

If you want to see the old Florida, the way it was before condos and all the homogenized BS that came with development, go to Gulfport. Think of it as a beachy Brigadoon. Beautiful, relaxed place.Walk the beach, the pier, lean back at a beachside bar, experience a Florida that is largely extinct. [Link]. 

Again, Welcome. If you have any questions, just e-mail me [Link].

--- Luis

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