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interviewed by Suzette Berkman.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (78 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
Tampa arts and culture oral history project
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Interview conducted on August 29, 2006.
Art Keeble, Director of the Arts Council for Hillsborough County discusses the state of the arts in Hillsborough County, Florida. Mr. Keeble describes his childhood in Tennessee and events that inspired his lifelong love of the arts. Mr. Keeble focuses on the visual and performing arts in the Tampa Bay area, including an in-depth look at the Tampa Theater in downtown Tampa. Local transportation issues are also examined.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
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C O P Y R I G H T N O T I C E T h i s O r a l H i s t o r y i s c o p y r i g h t e d b y t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a L i b r a r i e s O r a l H i s t o r y P r o g r a m o n b e h a l f o f t h e B o a r d o f T r u s t e e s o f t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a C o p y r i g h t 2 0 0 7 U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a A l l r i g h t s r e s e r v e d T h i s o r a l h i s t o r y m a y b e u s e d f o r r e s e a r c h i n s t r u c t i o n a n d p r i v a t e s t u d y u n d e r t h e p r o v i s i o n s o f t h e F a i r U s e F a i r U s e i s a p r o v i s i o n o f t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s C o p y r i g h t L a w ( U n i t e d S t a t e s C o d e T i t l e 1 7 s e c t i o n 1 0 7 ) w h i c h a l l o w s l i m i t e d u s e o f c o p y r i g h t e d m a t e r i a l s u n d e r c e r t a i n c o n d i t i o n s F a i r U s e l i m i t s t h e a m o u n t o f m a t e r i a l t h a t m a y b e u s e d F o r a l l o t h e r p e r m i s s i o n s a n d r e q u e s t s c o n t a c t t h e U N I V E R S I T Y O F S O U T H F L O R I D A L I B R A R I E S O R A L H I S T O R Y P R O G R A M a t t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a 4 2 0 2 E F o w l e r A v e n u e L I B 1 2 2 T a m p a F L 3 3 6 2 0
Tampa Arts and Culture Oral History Project University of South Florida Interview with: Art Keeble Interviewed by: Suzette Berkman Location: Tampa, FL Date: August 29, 2006 Transcribed by: Rebecca Willman Interview Changes by: Nicole Cox Date o f Changes: August 01, 2007 Final Edit by: Nicole Cox Date of Final Edit: August 28, 2007 SB: 29 th and I am interviewing Art Keeble, who is the Director of the Arts Council for Hillsborough County. Thanks so much Art, for being here today and for all owing us to interview you. SB: Great. Well, we would like to hear more about you personally first, if we could. I would fill us in. What brought you to Tampa? that long. But I had been Director of the Arts Commission for the State of Tennessee, and to be honest, supported the w rong gubernatorial candidate. And the elections were in November, and in January, I was looking for a job. So I took some time off just to visit friends around the country, and I was in California and went to see a spiritual advisor that was a friend of a friend. And she was good enough for me. SB: How interesting. AK: So, among other things, she said "I see you driving a red convertible, I see you writing a book, And I laughed and SB: Oh my gosh. AK: said, y ou know, the West Coast of from the guy who was the Director of the Arts Council here. And said that he was SB: Who was that? AK: Skip Schreiber He said that he was resigning and wondered if I would like to throw
2 my hat in the ring. So I did, and that was April, and I was hired in June. Lo and behold, it was to the West Coast of Florida. SB: [Laughs] AK: So I had I called her a couple of times after that and said, you know, What else do you want to tell me? SB: Oh, OK. AK: But I AK: So two out of three is not bad, you know? SB: When did you do that? When did you write your cookbooks? AK: I decided a few years ago that that would be a good Christmas present. So tha Christmas card to people SB: OK. AK: And I work on it all during the year AK: Then Thanksgiving weekend I finish it and give it to the printer SB: What attracted you to this I mean, we know why you came to this city, but what did you know about the Arts Council when you came? AK: Very little as a matter of fact. I had known a lot about arts councils as you know, agencies throughout the country, having been head of the state agency. And prior to being director in Tennesse e, I was the founder of the Knoxville, Tennessee Arts Council. And you know, got involved in all of the national committees and national organizations of arts councils. So I knew pretty much what arts councils did throughout the country. And etty similar. Some are private, some are government, and some are not for profit. But most of them provide the same services to the community. AK: About coming here. I had taught schoo l in Jacksonville, back in the sixties.
3 SB: Where did you grow up? AK: I grew up in a little town outside of Knoxville, Tennessee. Between Knoxville and the Smoky Mountains. Grew up on a farm. And SB: What AK: Went to University of Tennessee to colle ge. I had gotten a degree in Journalism. And had always been involved in something cultural. I studied piano for about ten years AK: I was in theatre in college and in the University Singers. SB: But it was really writing that appeal ed to you? AK: Not so much the writing as so much of finding the story. SB: OK. SB: OK [laughs]. the big appeal to me. And eventually I ended up back in graduate school for television. But SB: [Was] that in Tennessee? AK: In Tennessee. But never pursued that as a career because luckily I got a job working in the arts and have been here ever since. SB: OK. And then in Nashville, that was your first arts job? AK: As a matter of fact, it was. I answered an ad in the paper in 1970 something. SB: OK. AK: And SB: How, how long were you there? AK: Well I was at the first job for about three years. And that was working for the Tennes see Arts Commission on an Office of Economic Opportunity program, which was
4 a federal subsidy program, to try to keep create economic opportunity for poor people. SB: OK. AK: And Tennessee had gotten a grant to find indigenous crafts people up in the hi lls and hollers of Tennessee. SB: Oh neat. AK: And my first job was covering sixteen counties, to go find people who primarily were folk artists they were untrained. And they made quilts, they made penny whistles, they had a lot of there was a lot of wo odworking, basketry. Really an incredible introduction to me SB: Of folk art. AK: Into folk art and into in some cases into my roots. Because I had grown up in the country, and those people were in the in the area, but not people that I interacted with And so I had a chance to get to know some of them quite well. One woman that I met and became a very good friend with was Pearl Bowling. And Pearl made dolls out of corn shucks. And their hair was the cornsilk. And Pearl grew her own tobacco, which she chewed. She always carried a little cup full of Kleenex, and teach classes. Her work is in the Smithsonian Institution. And she lived out way, way out in the country in this little wooden house, with a potbelly stove, and she kept that stove fired just about year round. SB: It was cool. AK: It was cold. Always had a kettle of water on top of the stove. But [she] just became a really good friend. And I learned so much about her, about just lifestyles. And that sort of sparked my interest in finding out more about folk artists and untrained artists. So I did that until we had discovered enough of these people to start to market their work. So I went to Nashville then a s Director of Tennessee Craft Marketing. And we opened up gift shops in the state parks and sold this work. And then I became kind of a quilt expert, and I think it was because I was the only one in the office that had a truck. SB: [Laughs] AK: So I wou ld load up 300 trucks and drive I mean 300 quilts drive to Chicago, and bring an empty truck home. To sell the SB: To the craft fairs? AK: To primarily retail stores.
5 SB: Oh, OK. AK: We did a big exhibit at Marshall Fields SB: Interesting. AK: We did an exhibit in a department store in Indianapolis; one in New Orleans. And for so many of these people, that $200 they made off [of] that quilt was more money than they had seen SB: Oh gosh. AK: One woman bought her first set of teeth SB: My gos h. AK: Another bought a washer and dryer that she had never had. And later on, we kind of discovered that we had in some ways had created a monster. Because we were giving o with it, how to spend it or how to save it. So there were some interesting problems that, that arose out of that. SB: My gosh. Did you were your parents from Tennessee? AK: Oh yeah. Yeah, my mom was a first grade school teacher. She taught first grade for probably forty years. And my dad worked at the Aluminum Company of America. SB: Wow. Were they first generation? Second? I mean, are they what were AK: Probably third or fourth. SB: Third or fourth. know of that we can honestly trace back to Wales or to England or SB: Were, were they involved in culture? AK: Yes. I came in I grew up in a musical family. AK: Everybody went to church, everybody sang, we had a piano from the day I was born. SB: Was that
6 AK: And we were my sister and I were encouraged, you know to pursue any kind of talent. Whatever it was you wanted to do. AK: We were encouraged to do that, very academically driven. I mean there wa s no question that, you know, you would do well in school and that you would go to college. And SB: Do, do you have just the one sister? AK: One sister, who still lives in Tennessee in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where they discovered the atom bomb. And she h as three kids, all of whom are musical. AK: Her oldest son is has been, for the last six years, in the touring company of Les Miserables. SB: Oh my gosh. AK: Her daughter is a band director at the local high school. And her son is the Minister of Music at a church in North Carolina. SB: So it certainly took. AK: Yeah. SB: Do you, do you maintain your musical interest? AK: My interests, but not pursuing it. SB: OK [laughs]. AK: I was somewhere recently and there was a piano there, and I, you know, played a little something but no. The spark is gone. AK: Oh, hardly, hardly. I like to think I can, but you know, too many years of smoking cigarettes. SB: Are you an artist? AK: No.
7 SB: Do you dabble in that? AK: I dabble in everything, I always have. SB: OK, OK. administration, as opposed to actively applying the art. I have a deep a ppreciation for it, and a pretty good knowledge of several art forms SB: It does require patience, for sure. AK: Yes, yes. SB: It does. oh I was looking at a Bruce Mar sh painting not too long ago, and I think Bruce is just one of the best artists in this area. And I just marveled at how anyone could have the patience to paint ten thousand pebbles on the beach. script or, you know fight to my death for their right to do it! [Both laugh] SB: You have made your mark AK: Well thank you.
8 AK: I think I came to Tampa when I needed Tampa. Maybe Tampa needed me. It was a it has been, a very good partnership, a very good relationship. SB: The arts council began when? AK: Nineteen sixty seven. SB: Sixty seven. AK: The same year as the National Endowment for the Arts. SB: OK. AK: Doctor Richard Hodes was a state representative. And when the state was informed [that] the federal government was setting aside money to give to each state if they would start an arts council Dick Hodes said, So he wrote legislation that created the Arts Council of Tampa in 1967. There was no money attached to it, but the bill was there. And within a short period a little gallery over on Florida Aven ue, in the back of the Tampa Theatre. SB: Oh wow. AK: And shortly thereafter, they established a relationship with the Hillsborough County School Board to put artists in the schools. And some of the artists that we revere today actually got some of thei photographer, who now unfortunately has suffered a stroke, but you know, was a very famous magazine photographer. He taught in our schools for a long time. [Then there is] Jerry Bickel [of] Bits careers. SB: It, it began with artists in the schools primarily and I was looking at your program book, a nd it has evolved to include innumerable programs. Different programs. AK: Oh yes, yes. SB: Did that We would send Bud Lee to a school for half of the year and he wo uld work with the teachers and the students. That SB: Was that on a weekly basis?
9 AK: Like two days per week. SB: Two days per week. AK: Yeah. And I wish we had the money to do that now because you know, we send an artist into the schools for an expe experience. SB: So they go one time? AK: Many, yes, yes. SB: To a school AK: Not too often. But if we had, if we were able to put artists in residence so the students get to know them, they ge t to work with them, they understand how they live, had sixty schools built SB AK: In the just the last few years, and no increase in our appropriation to provide artists for those schools. SB: Where is your funding source? AK: For the Arts Council? SB: Yes. AK: Primarily the Hillsborough County Commissi on. But we have a contract with the school board. We also get money from the magnet school program, because we do a lot of extra work for magnet schools. The art magnet schools. SB: I was so impressed with the number of schools that you reach. Is that pa rt of the mandate? That you go into as many schools? AK: We want to. SB: All the schools? AK: We want to go to all the schools. So much of that program is driven by the interest of the assistant principal. SB: OK, interesting.
10 AK: If that person is if they, you know, have seen the light and they understand what, you know, a heavy cultural education will mean to a student, then they will request more artists. SB: And do you go into schools that are just primarily primary schools? Middle? High school s? AK: The concentration is in the elementary school. But we have a lot of middle school. SB: Do they have their own programs? AK: Most of them, yes. All of them have the vis ual arts program, they have music, and they have you know, some of them have theatre programs. And just SB: I notice you do field trips. AK: Yes. SB: You sponsor them? You fund them? AK: We contract with performing companies who are adjudicated by educators, to make sure, number one that what that their product is suitable for students, and number two way, complies with the FCAT standards, the Sunshine State Standards, so the kids are learning something at the same time they are, you know being entertained. Those companies then are listed in a field trip guide. And the schools choose which ones they w ant to go to. And the kids pay a small fee and then the company actually makes pretty good money. I think last year we generated about $400,000 for arts groups. SB: And you where did you generate the funds? AK: From the fees the kids paid to go see SB : Okay, okay. AK: Yes, three dollars, [or] $3.50. sustained? SB: But I know you provide grants as well. Do you not?
11 AK: Yes, yes. SB: To arti sts? AK: We have a SB: To the schools? To which is up to $500 to do an in school project or to do some professional development. er year. buying a piece of equipment, it may be going to study somewhere; it may b e creating a SB: Who, could you AK: Frazier Smith, who is a wood sculptor in South Tampa. He makes wooden quilts as a matter of fact. SB: Oh gosh. AK: We bought him some electronic tools in one grant. In a second grant, we helped him build a studio. And Frazier is now in heavy demand around the country AK: Just had a one man show in Houston SB: Gosh. AK: And was a featured artist at the American Quilt symposium, even though he was the only artist that did not SB: In wood! AK: Make in fabric. SB: [Laughs] AK: Then we have a Cultural Development Program, which is [an] organization. And From the small groups up to the Performing Arts Center and the orchestra.
12 SB: Are you affiliated with the state arts? AK: Yes. SB: Council. AK: Yes. We are members of the Florida Cultural Alliance. And the Florida Association of Local Arts Agencie s. And many of us on staff here have served on panels for the there are maybe two thousand arts councils in the country, and most of us know each cluding those of us who have been in the business for so long. You know AK: Twenty two years. SB: Twenty two years! And what changes have yo u seen? AK: Oh lord. SB: Both professionally and personally, actually? AK: [Laughs] AK: I used to have hair! [Laughs] SB: Okay! [Laughs] AK: I remember driving into Tampa the first ti me, down I 275, and the Lykes Tower was our skyscraper at well, I think there was one under construction. And I thought, well here I am in the big city. SB: [Laughs] SB: It sure is. AK: I think something that, that troubles me about our growth in the arts, or lack thereof; two years. SB: For instance?
13 AK: Well the Playmakers Theatre Company, Tampa Players Theatre Company just in Ballet. I think a lot of that, you know, was growing pains. I think some of the groups tried to be too much, too soon. And strangled themselves Which is an unfortunate result of artistic egos being bigger than artistic realities. SB: Were those growing pains as well? SB: Dying pains [laughs]. AK: Because nothing is replaceable. You know, Stageworks Thea tre Company has maintained at a very slow growth level all of these years by doing quality work without the right size for this community right now. And the Spanish L yric Theatre has been here the oldest Hispanic theatre in the United States. I think [they] just celebrated their fiftieth anniversary. SB: Gosh, wow. AK: And they do it, and Renee Gonzalez will tell you, Because it would kill us. SB: Were there too many theatres for the size of the city? SB: Okay, all right. AK: There was an excellent SB: Not lack of interest, per say? AK: Nope, no. SB: By the community, just too many? AK: Just too many, and I think with the Playmakers and the Players, they both wanted to be the eight hundred pound gorilla. And you know, aspired to do more expensive shows, ady to pay the price for a ticket it would cost to maintain those companies. And nor should they. Government support back SB: Will that
14 AK: Just the facts of life and that SB: Wil l that always be for the arts, do you think? SB: Continual problem. SB: There was a trust fund for the state, an arts trust fund, as I recall. AK: Yes. SB: Was the arts council involved in that? What happened? AK: We helped to lobby to get that passed. It was a a way to dedicate money each year legislatively, into a fund that would support the arts. And then the governor decide d that trust funds SB: The current governor? funds. Not just for the arts, but for roads, or schools or hospitals, whatever. So as a result cated money, so it was harder to get through the legislature to replace those dollars with new dollars. AK: Each year is SB: Having to raise money. back up to the 2002 2003 funding level. SB: How much of your time is spent fundraising? What, what is AK: Very little. SB: Oh, okay. SB: What does your
15 S B: Sure. What does your job consist of? I need this, then I say, Well, I know where you can find it. I get them together. I spend a lot of time working on specific p rojects that are going to bring visibility to the arts arts things in this community. Jan Platt and I were the founders of the Ybor City Saturday Market. SB: Oh my goodness! AK: Because t Festival in South Tampa. SB: What is that? dren to cultural things. Everything from drum circles to painting and drawing, to SB: Is that Robert Rowen? AK: Robert Rowen. He was the founder of that, yes. I do, it seems like a lot of advocacy a political SB: The arts desperately need that of course. SB: Do you serve on boards? The arts boards? if I actually had a seat on the board. SB: But I see you went to all the arts events, and you [are] obviously representing the arts council. AK: Oh yes, oh yes. SB: At these events. you! [Laughter]
16 SB: Well, you do so much. I again refer back to that program. I was in awe in terms of the numbers of programs, the number of people you reach. Would, would you like to share that? Any of the numbers? you mean the artis ts in the schools? SB: The numbers of children that you reach in the schools, the numbers of schools AK: I think it was and parents. SB: Incredible. AK: Were somehow touched by our program. 85,000 kids took field trips. But I have to contribute all of that to the staff. SB: Yes. SB: Well how large is the staff? AK: Artists in the Schools staff is three people. SB: OK. AK: We have two in my office and one at the school board. SB: And then the arts council itself? AK: We have eight employees. SB: OK. employees. SB: OK. AK: We manage the theatre under contract with the City. SB: I see, OK. And you have a board? You have a separate arts council board?
17 AK: Yes. 15 members, appointed by the County Commissioners. Then we have five ex rimarily a policy making board. SB: Meaning what direction? AK: What direction SB: You will move? AK: Yes. They make decisions on who gets the grants; they now of doing a community cultural plan for the next ten years. S o they will be very AK: Yes it is! And time consuming! SB: Wow. AK: But the board will be instrumental in getting that plan out into the community and ard. SB: Who, who is your chair? AK: The Chair is Leslie Osterweih And she will be chair through 2007. SB: OK. AK: And our Vice Chair is Jay Trezevant a US Attorney. And the treasurer is Bobby Davis, who who is [End Tape 1, Side A] ___ [Tape 1 Side B] scene has changed in Tampa. some say they stay here because of the light. And some say they stay here because they just love each other, you know? I think we have probably more performing artists in Hillsborough County and more visual artists in Pinellas County.
18 AK: And there again, it may be t when Tampa in my 22 years here, there was sort of a peak when artists were sort of at SB: When would that have been? AK: That would have SB: OK. AK: And there were regular art shows, street shows in Ybor City. There was a group of people who took over the, the whole cigar factory out there, they call themselves Titanic Anato my. And AK: There were probably 12 of them. And they moved into the, that warehouse, or factory SB: On 7 th Street, or AK: No, it was like 2 nd 2 nd Avenue, and maybe 19 th Street? Just a rundown old beat up cigar factory. But it was their studio. And they had wonderful parties and wonderful exhibitions. Most of them had just graduated from USF, and I thought one day, You know, this is purgatory for those people. They here. All of those people, with the exception of two, are now gone. Elsewhere, not dead! SB: Yes! [Both laugh] AK: They moved SB: Who are the two? AK: Brian Taylor is still here. And he may be, as a matter of fact, he may be the only one. But others moved to New York, some moved to California, one to Ft. Lauderdale, all pursuing you know, a better career, [and] better jobs. Recently I talked to one who is thinking about coming back here because California is very expensive. You k but it is such a huge community, how do you ever one SB: Right.
19 AK: how do you rise up in that artistic community? ies for his personal involvement in his community. To be better in Tampa, than in Los Angeles. And so SB: That makes sense. AK: You know, I hate to be trite, but you know, big fish in a small pond SB: Right. AK: You know, sometimes, [it] actually ma kes you feel better about yourself and your surfaced SB: Could you explain what you mean by that? AK: That purgatory? SB : Yeah. AK: That was sort of the holding ground SB: OK. AK: better world. SB: OK. AK: [laughs] SB: OK. AK: I see a, you know, in our universities are turning out just in credible artists. AK: We have the best dance school, probably south of the Mason Dixon line. The best dance facility AK: SB: At the at the university?
20 AK: SB: OK. They need to go elsewhere then? s not on stage. We were just talking earlier about a former USF dance graduate, Andy Noble, who has been in California for several years now, [and] has done quite well out there. And [he] is coming back this fall to choreograph a piece for the fall dance c oncert. SB: Well known? I mean why woul d Patrick Wilson come back? You know, its home. SB: Right. AK: You know, he can be a star wherever he goes, but SB: At this point AK: the hugs are better at home. AK: Yes. SB: For sur e. generate interest in the business community for opening up those spaces where artists can the life district that was pretty rough. And nobody went there, particularly after dark. And some artists moved in, and it almost overnight, it became the design district. Trendy, little between the residents now that people are literally running from business to business [saying],
21 SB: This is M iami? AK: This is Miami. SB: Is there an equivalent happening here? AK: No, no. SB: Channelside? AK: Channelside is all residential. SB: Ybor [City]? ugly bed fellow. SB: Fact of life. AK: There are, and have been, some available buildings out there, and even some homes. before afford to consider it, you know? There may well be, you know, a district in West Tampa or in Drew Park SB: Seminole Heights? AK: aissance, like happened in SoHo, and downtown Louisville, Kentucky, it better SB: What, what will keep art, artists here? And and do you see your role as, you know, helping with that? AK: Oh, I th ink everything we can do through giving them grants, to helping them find exhibitions, to helping them find work, to just promoting the fact that they exist got several ideas with this plan to, to get SB: Terrific. AK: artists involved with makin g a living. And I I guess, too many times when we
22 AK: but, you know, musicians Orchestra make a living. [Both laugh] SB: They do! AK: if they have a family, and SB: They do. AK: you know, two cars and all of that SB: Yes. probably the most dedicated people in any community. SB: And what would you say the quality is? SB: It is certainly top notch. AK: It is top notch. SB: It is. haps for the younger audience. SB: OK. AK: Vikki Carr is not pops. [Both laugh]
23 ou missed then the Pink Martini. AK: OK. you know, it, it brought a totally different crowd, and they were phenomenal. AK: Yes. And you got a little SB: So I thin AK: Yes, and you got to give it back to them. You know, a Pink Martini once a year. SB: Yes. AK: To get these kids to come. SB: Yes. AK: I was in a meeting recently with a woman from Durham no, Charlotte, N orth How do you get the a the Conductor there, has been very innovative. He is These kids communicate on their cell phones, their iPods, their you know, whatever thes e little hand AK: And 500 people get that SB: My gosh. AK: within two minutes. SB: In credible. AK: And all of a sudden here, these purple people show up. SB: Amazing, amazing.
24 certainly not subscribers. But it takes one person to start the ball roll SB: Sure. Now you, you do you foresee the other arts areas having difficulty attracting younger people? I know Richard Florida was here, how many years ago? And he AK: About four, four or five. SB: He inspired quite, quite a renaissance for the arts in, in Tampa. A lot of thinking, a lot of discussion. AK: Well I think theatre companies like the one at the Performing Arts Center help me with the name SB: The theatre oh, phooey Jobsite! AK: Jobsite, yes! David Jenkins. SB: Yes, yes. SB: Younger? AK: youthful audience. SB: Terrific. AK: Younger audience. close they were att racting SB: OK. AK: a huge younger audience. There is the Gala Corina, which is the big art happening every November AK: And it takes place in, in an abandoned building somewhere that needs architectural help, because most of th e organizers of Gala Corina are architects.
25 SB: This is a younger audience? AK: Gala Corina is open for about two weeks. SB: And what is it? SB: OK. AK: And painting SB: And element. And the winning entry, as a matter of fact was a floating Tampa M useum of Art, on the river, because no one knew where else to put it! [Both laugh] AK: But it was, it was a very, very good presentation of what a floating museum could be. SB: Would we consider this a segue into perhaps talking about the museum? AK : Sure, sure. But I would like to say that you know SB: Oh, OK! AK: regarding the younger artists I think every discipline has probably an element young people gettin g involved in the more technological side of the art. SB: OK. AK: Digital stuff SB: Sure. AK: you know, animation, game making.
26 SB: Many orchestras are putting large screens in, you know, in back of the conductor so that the cameras can focus on t success with that. AK: Yes. AK: You know, right here in downtown Tampa, we have Tri Dimensional Studios, which is an animation business. I SB: Oh my Gosh. AK: to fulfill their contracts. AK: Yes, all over the country. A lot of their stuff is Christian cartoons. You know, the Christian message. SB: H ow interesting. SB: Right here in downtown? AK: Right in the heart of downtown. AK: We just got a report from Americans for the Arts that was done by Dun and Bradstreet Hillsborough County, in 2005, ranked 6 th in the country in the growth of creative industries; and ranked 4 th in the country in the growth of creative industry employ ees. doing this cultural planning SB: Oh, sure. AK: creative indust
27 schools for their kids, and transportation to get to and from work and wherever else they want to go. SB: Yes. and the lack thereof. SB: Yes. Our mayor has certainly addressed that and talked about it a lot. AK: Someone, someone came up to me at the Ybor market a f ew weeks ago and they were staying at the Hilton Garden Inn, right there in Ybor City. And this was on a Saturday, and they said that on Friday night they wanted to go down to the Performing SB: That is so sad. Obviously affecting the arts and activities AK: And affecting restaurants and you know SB: and everyone else. AK: SB: Would you not feel that as there are condos being occupied downtown of necessity, there will be transportation is sues addressed? AK: There has to be, there has to be. I mean, I drive through Channelside now and I see one, except Mer idian. But how are transportation they have to get to the Performing Arts Center or to the Tampa Museum or irculator transportation to
28 AK: people say, I get home from work, and I stay home out. st that AK: the sprawl and the growth and the congestion. You know, but if you could get on a little train SB: Sure. AK: and get off downtown, and get on the little bus and go to the Performing Arts Center and back home on the tra in, your quality of life would be a whole lot better. Would you comment about the individual venues for the arts that have made a difference to the quality of life in T ampa? phenomenal, phenomenal thing. I remember when it was just a hole in the ground over there. And they put the Christmas tree on top you know, to top it off SB: [Laug hs] SB: Sure. AK: you know, but then it caught on. And Judi [Lisi] has done an incredible job. SB: She has. AK: And [so has] the rest of the staff. ly getting a home in Channelside. lot of discomfort about locations, locations, locatio ns. The city and community seems to be split over I would like to see more attention given to could have the most precious building in the world that was on the cover of every to go.
29 SB: A second time. AK: Right, a second time. SB: Yep. sso showing there, people are going to go. You know, now those are the two extremes. SB: Yes. AK: But there needs to be some happy medium about the program being the first priority. I mean just recently there was a column in the Tampa Tribune by Daniel Ruth. And he had gone, I guess on a Saturday or Sunday to the Tampa Museum. He said, And you know, I for someone who who is so widely read I nt. is there, among members of the board, and the community, to make a great museum. I just hate to see anything stand in the way of that happening. And I think at some point you You know and that someth hard on ourselves. The University [of South Florida] is 50 years old. The orchestra is probably less than that, as SB: Yes. AK: probably not a grandparent in this town whose parents took them to a cultural event in Tampa. Because there were none. AK: I mean does that make sense? If you, you know? y. AK: I was driving through my little hometown in Tennessee a few years after I moved here. And I was at this traffic light, and I looked on the corner, and here was the sign for the local college, Established 1798. And all of a sudden it sort of came t ogether. You know?
30 SB: That is interesting. AK: I went to the 200 th Anniversary of the Theatre Department at the University of Tennessee. SB: That relates back to your comment about ou r expectations being so high. AK: Well I SB: You have you AK: Grandma had been a member of the symphony board AK: and her mother had been a member of SB: Sure. AK: the symphony board, or a member of the Tampa Museum, and they left their collection to the Tampa Museum, those SB: Yes. AK : Now someday it will be, you know. SB: Yes. AK: But it SB: Are you, are you in favor of building the museum in parts to accommodate the growth? AK: Sure. I just want a museum. [Both laugh] SB: OK. seems like sever al years, and I was in the museum just the other day, and there was water dripping onto the carpet from a leak in the ceiling.
31 building. SB: Right. AK: So, somethi SB: Scary thought. SB: Scary. Would you like to comment on the growth of ar t or the status of art in Pinellas County? How does it relate to Hillsborough County? What is the relationship is there a relationship? across the bridge. You know, I know people who go to Ruth Eckerd Hall a lot. I know people who go to Tarpon Springs a lot, particularly to the Leepa Rattner Museum, the new museum up there. I think St. Petersburg number one because of its marketing program, has sold us on that they a to those mavericks and those homesteaders on Central Avenue. They moved into those code en forcement guy there to shut the door, until, you know, the thing caught on. well, hometown thr would probably put a lot of orchestras out of business because of the cost of doing that. I think their biggest support comes from St. Petersburg. And their their biggest financial support SB: Maybe. AK: Is it also in St. Petersburg? SB: It is. drive to St. Petersburg to see the Florida Or chestra, but for the sake of the orchestra, that AK:
32 the Performing Arts Center. In retrospect, possibly there should have been another hall built. They had a chance to, to partner with Blake High School and have an auditorium there that would be sufficient for them. But you know, for whatever reason that SB: I think it was too small. AK: Yeah. SB: But it, it is interesting to see art being developed inspired in the different Do you, do you attend meetings in Pinellas? Do you interact in any way? SB: Oh yes, yes. AK: Judith Powers Jones who is Director of the Arts Council in Pinellas County and I have worked together for the last 15 years, closely. And we have tried, so far in vain, but we to try to develop programs that would serve the whole Bay Area. I mean publishing a calendar for Hillsborough County. Judith is publishing a calendar for on of, of interest in that city as there is here, just because of the length of the bridge. And so, I ut adds to the quality of life of both counties. AK: Regionalism? SB: done? AK: Y
33 of any discipline, get a short shrift because o f only seeing them in their tuxedo with their violin under their chin, or in make up in a alize that could easily be your neighbor, who you have beer and hot dogs with on Saturday involved in their neighborhoods and in their community, and encouraged organi zations to however they can break that barrier. [End Tape 1, Side B] --[Tape 2, Side A] orchestra. Would you like to elaborate? AK: Well I, I just like to see people go to arts events in whatever, however they feel the same what do I want to say they don that they used to. SB: OK. more than welcome. SB: I agree. AK: We were talking about how you lure the younger a udience; I remember a story, Ron Jones, who is Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at USF told. They used to have this noon time art thing. You know, you could see a little exhibit, you might see a dance, or you might see a little piece of th first Wednesday or something like that. They would have SB: This was in the college? AK: Yes. SB: On, on campus? AK: On campus, on campus. so he go t the idea, and SB: [Laughs]
34 AK: They got pizza donated by all of the pizza companies SB: Sure. AK: around the university. They had over 100 kids. AK: So it became sort of our m antra. That if you want to get audiences, new audiences, SB: OK interesting. [inaudible]. AK: SB: Of course the parks concerts. AK: I love going to thos e concerts. lure. SB: OK. AK: So SB: Something AK: During our planning process, we had a town hall meeti ng at Tampa Preparatory SB: Oh my gosh.
35 AK: And they all stayed for free pizza and choc story, and how this first Friday, third Thursday event they have you know, they had talked about free pizza. And then we talked about, e a great name for an arts open house night? AK: And you went from the museum to the Performing Arts Center SB: Sure. AK: SB: Would you talk about the Tampa T AK: Oh sure. SB: touch on that, and you AK: The second most important structure in the City of Tampa. AK: The first being the Henry B. Plant Hotel. SB: OK. AK: Tampa Theatre is celebratin g its 80 th birthday this year. SB: Wow. working on that right now. SB: Who owns it? SB: Privately owned? above the theatre, which means they own the ground that the lobby sits on. And then there wer e two different families that owned the land under the auditorium. Well this past year, we were able to buy half of the land under the auditorium.
36 SB: We being the Arts Council? AK: Tampa Theatre Foundation. SB: OK. AK: People think the City of Tampa owns the building. They own the contents. SB: OK. AK: [Laughs] SB: Interesting. AK: They own the seats SB: I see. AK: they own the projector SB: Right. just renting. profit? AK: Oh yeah, Tampa Theatre is [a] non profit. There are you know, some great futures for the Tampa Theatre, and we desperately need another screening room. We have lost so to the other screening room and put the new one in. SB: Typically they show old movies. What, what [else]? AK: Well they show classic movies. SB: Classic. Foreign films? AK: They show foreign films, and we show first run films when we can get them. An d 125 seats. Now a distributor in Hollywood who wants to get a whole lot of money the first week for his film looks at the number of seats that people can see his movie. Tam pa Theatre starts to rise right up on his chart. When Brokeback Mountain came out, they called the Tampa Theatre and said,
37 SB: Oh my. AK: So for two weeks, we had a line around the theatre. seats weeks than any theatre in America. SB: My gosh. AK: Because of the size. SB: Yes. Wow. become performing arts halls SB: OK. and it was not Brokeback Mountain but ano we had a contract for two weeks. No, we had a contract for two weeks for March of the Penguins AK: Then we had a movie similar to Brokeback Mountain that we could have moved in, bu March of the Penguins out, so we lost the second film. AK: So if we had a second screening room of 200 seats, we could keep that film longer. And still bring in a new product. just so beautiful. AK: John Eberson. John designed Tampa Theatre, the Gusman Theater in Miami, a of the twenties. SB: And is the organ still played? AK: Oh yes, y es.
38 SB: Is that before or when is it played? AK: Before every film. Rises up out of the floor. SB: And who plays that, is that AK: Members of the Central Florida Theatre Organ Society, CFSTOS. They have been working on the organ and the pipe system th ere since before I came here. AK: And every week they come in and they tweak something. And you know they may SB: Have the acoustics b een tweaked in, in the facility? AK: Only by the sound system itself. We put in new speakers a few years ago so we have SB: Structurally. AK: structurally. I mean, if we hung up a bunch of d rapes it would certainly affect the and the flowers AK: It is a special place. In February or March of next year, we will have an 80 th Anniversary Gala. SB: Wonderful. AK: And the people who are planning this are asking everyone who comes to tell their Tampa Theatre story. A lot of first kisses happened at the Tampa Theatre! SB: Oh my gosh! Any weddings? AK: Oh yeah, we still have we ddings. SB: Do you really? AK: Yes. SB: Do you rent it out AK: Yes.
39 SB: the facility? AK: Yeah, yeah. We have quite a few weddings every year. You know Richard Giunta ? SB: Yes, sure. AK: He used to be an usher at the Tampa Theatre. SB: Oh my goodness. AK: Or, worked at the concession stand, his first job. SB: Extraordinary! AK: Yeah, you know it, we always laugh and say AK: [Both laugh] SB: Gosh, t AK: Yeah, yeah. SB: Lot of history. AK: It is. fragile building. As old as it is SB: It needs to be preserved. AK: Just two weeks ago, a pipe burst on the fourth floor of the office building, on like a Sunday morning. So it ran all day and all night until people came in, you know. Well the water started running down, inside t he walls, completely flooded the flower shop next door to the theatre. And we had water dripping out of the light fixtures in the mezzanine.
40 SB: Oh no. ral months what kind of interior damage may be had [been] done to the plaster. SB: Such a shame. AK: And it will, if there is any damage, it will work its way through the plaster until it just pops off, so SB: Oh my. And this happened when? AK: About two weeks ago. SB: Two weeks ago, what a shame. AK: Yeah. SB: That can be costly. AK: Well, all the more reason that we need to stabilize that building. SB: Sure. another building that has that well, as you said, AK: 1888. Something like that. SB: These are two treasures for sure. ervation attention SB: Sure. AK: for a long time. SB: Oh absolutely, definitely.
41 AK: Yes, and more to come SB: Would you would you like to focus on any other area [or] art in terms of again, I repeat, you have made such an incredible impact on the cultural scene in Tampa. [Both laugh] AK of drained my brain! AK: Thank you so much. the lives of artists. And for that we thank you. that would be a nice legacy right there. SB: Sure would. SB: Yes of course. AK: The that I learned many years ago when I was reading Mother Jones Magazine. She was a labor organizer of coal mines in Kentucky. And her philosophy of life was, Bloom where you ar AK :You know, and I thought, Well that means something to me. AK: Since I have moved around from job to job and did this and did that. SB: Sure. AK: And I thoug
42 [Both laugh] SB: And we thank you for that. AK: Oh, thank you. SB: Take care and again, many thanks. AK: Well thank you Suzette. [End of Interview]