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  • 01 Sep 2016 6:20 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Article by Katherine Snow Smith, Tampa Bay Times Staff Writer

    Improvements are in the works for the Warehouse Arts District. Close to 100 people at the Warehouse Arts District association's annual membership meeting heard about streetscaping, lighting the Pinellas Trail and 30 new studios for artists.

    Mary Jane Park, executive director, said the organization is halfway to its goal of raising $800,000 thanks to a state grant for $300,000 and $100,000 from the city of St. Petersburg. The money will help pay for renovating a 15,000-square-foot space inside an existing warehouse for 20 to 30 artist studios.

    More than 300 artists, 10 percent from outside the state, have signed up for space in the Warehouse Arts District.

    Park said fundraising is ongoing and construction on the first phase of studios could start pretty soon.

    Meanwhile, the city's economic development department is seeking approval for streetscaping, new lighting, and landscaping along the intersection of 22nd Street and Fifth Avenue S, where the arts district sits.

  • 23 Aug 2016 4:47 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Article By Julie Garisto, AliveTampaBay Correspondent

    Budding Vortex. Photo by Alvarezphotography.com

    Mark Aeling, a local sculptor and president of the ArtsXchange, has been a pioneering force in the St. Petersburg arts community, but his experience and expertise has extended both throughout and beyond the Tampa Bay area.

    Aeling made several sculptures for What Dreams May Come, a critically acclaimed film that won an Oscar in 1999 for Best Visual Effects and was nominated for an Oscar for Set Decoration. He received his M.F.A. in sculpture from Washington University in St. Louis and owns and operates MGA Sculpture Studio, a fine art fabrication facility in the Warehouse Arts District. (Yes, MGA are his initials — the ‘G’ stands for Gerald; “It was my grandfather’s name,” he tells us.)

    Recent studio projects include “Budding Vortex” at The Crescent Westshore, “Ripples of Life” at The Florida Aquarium in Tampa and “Vertical Hum” for Metro Development in Rocky Point — Aeling and his team created the 20-foot abstract metal sculpture with a movement created to represent the wind on water.

    Aeling took some time from his busy schedule to answer some questions for Alive Tampa Bay.

    Would you tell us about a couple of firsts — when you first knew you wanted to become a sculptor and your first high-profile large-scale work?

    I had sculptural aspirations at a very young age. I had my first experience of bliss at the age of 7 making a little playground out of clay. It was the first time that I had an “out of body” like experience and felt connected to something greater than myself. The first high-profile project I did was for the Seattle Opera when I was about 23 years old. I made a couple of pieces of sculptural scenery that were the focus of the production. My first large sculpture commission for MGA was a guilted eagle for a bank in St. Louis. It had a 14-foot wingspan and sat on top of the building. That was back in 1996.

    What were some of the challenges involved with opening up the MGA studio?

    You could say I began the foundation for MGA when I was in seventh grade and asked for a jigsaw, a drill, and some clamps for christmas. I got my first business license for MGA Sculpture Studio in 1996. I built it one job at a time, reinvesting a percentage of my profits back into the company to by equipment. I never took a business loan. I was given the gift of drive and vision at a very young age. I love the experience of creating; it is my religion, and my studio is a shrine. One of the greatest challenges I faced was keeping the doors open through the recession. 2010 was a tough year but 2015 is my best to date.

    Please tell us how you got involved with the Warehouse Arts District’s ArtsXchange and how things are coming along with the facility?

    I have had my studio in the same location in St. Pete for over 11 years now. Long before it was known as the Warehouse Arts District. As the arts community developed we recognized a need for an entity that would help individual artists expand their marketing potential and also create an entity that could interface with the municipality on their behalf. An individual artist’s voice is small but as a group we can be heard. As the success of the district grew it became clear that the same problem would evolve here as in many other areas throughout the country. Artists move into run down parts of town for big spaces with cheap rent. Their creative energy attracts attention. That attention brings with it development. That development drives up prices which drives out artists. I got involved because I wanted security and taking an active leadership role was a way to make that happen.

    The ArtsXchange continues to move forward. At times it is a slow and plodding course but we have some very good people behind the project and there is truth in the mission. We have had a couple of minor setbacks working with the current construction climate in St. Pete. The success of our city in the past year or two, while wonderful, can create some challenges with costs and planning. We have had to make some adjustments in strategy but are now in a good position. Plan on seeing major progress on the ArtsXchange project as well as the Warehouse Arts District as a whole in the next year.

    You don’t appear to be as flashy as some other artists. You use the word “we” on your website. You help other artists and talk about your studio as “a team player.” Do you intentionally like to keep things low-key and collaborative?

    I once heard it said that it is best to be confident in your abilities and humble in your actions, a motto I try to live by. Large-scale sculpture is very labor intensive. I take full responsibility for everything my team creates and I guide the hands that help me but it is often a team effort and those that help feel more connected to the project if it is considered a “we” and not an “I” endeavor.

    From Aurora, Colorado, to college in St. Louis — Florida is such quite a change of pace. What drew you here?

    I was dissolving a business relationship in St. Louis and relocating my studio. I had located there after graduate school because the work was good but I had no binding connection. I was doing an installation on the east coast and took the opportunity to drive south and check out cities for a couple of weeks. I stumbled into Saint Pete and fell in love with the city. Don’t get me wrong I miss the mountains and the dry air very much but the beach is a good surrogate.

    Aeling’s studio and current projects can be seen during Second Saturday Art Walk (every second Saturday of the month) MGA Sculpture Studio, LLC, 515 22nd St. S., Unit E, St. Petersburg; (727) 327-3473, mgasculpture.com.

  • 20 May 2016 12:24 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Episode 12: Tracy Kennard - Founding Member of WADA
    Podcast: http://bit.ly/tracykennard
    Pay it forward: Zoe Bocik
    The Warehouse Arts District has blossomed into one of the most creative neighborhoods in all of St Petersburg. An eclectic group of painters, glassblowers, sculptors & visual artists have fused together to act as a collective voice for the area ensuring stability & success towards future growth. Learn more about this golden nugget from Tracy Kennard, one of the founding members of the Warehouse Arts District Association, about what started this movement, the exciting ArtsXchange project, and what the future for this area has on tap!


  • 20 May 2016 12:19 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    repost from Creative Loafing Tampa, May 19, 2016

    St. Pete’s Warehouse Arts District is making creative connections.

    Linda Saul-Sena  May 19, 2016 1:47 p.m.

    St. Pete’s Warehouse Arts District is a treasure trove of creative connectivity. If you haven’t discovered this juicy mix of studios, galleries and murals, treat yourself to a trip — sort of a visual staycation.

    Just blocks south of Central Avenue’s buzz, on 22nd Street, the Morean Center for Clay is your first stop. The carefully preserved Historic Seaboard Train Station, a red brick classic from 1926, is now a mecca for ceramic artists, offering classes, artists-in-residence programs, kilns and gallery space. It’s a “haven for pottery enthusiasts.”

    In 2015, Beth Morean donated the station to the not-for-profit that runs the programs and oversees the building. The large exhibition space is full of tempting objects for sale, varying widely in style, scale and price. The adjacent work area hums with artists and students focused on their projects.

    And there’s a restaurant on the premises, too: the CA Cafe, which serves tasty homemade soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts. During a recent lunch, the clientele was a wonderful cross-section of ceramic artists, government employees, neighborhood residents and businesspeople.

    A scant two blocks away, at 24th Street and Emerson Avenue, is Duncan McClellan’s arts oasis. This abandoned industrial area was mostly below the radar of redevelopment when the talented and hardworking glass artist opened his live/work space there in 2010. He had tried for years to secure a historic building in north Ybor City to no avail, thanks to the intransigence of Tampa’s government bureaucracy.

    Savvy St. Pete bureaucrats, on the other hand, welcomed him warmly. McClellan purchased an abandoned Tasti-Lee tomato-packing plant and transformed the empty space into an elegant, well-appointed gallery representing over 50 international glass artists — a visual feast of glass sculpture, objects and jewelry.

    Ever inventive, he built patios and gardens and a hot shop, too. McClellan realized that educating students about glass-making would be a boon to the area and initiated a program, the DMG School Project, through which thousands of students visit the hot shop and learn the process of glass-blowing.  Additionally, he developed a mobile hot shop to visit schools where transportation was unavailable. He also offers artists’ residencies, classes for the public in glass-blowing and etching, lectures and demonstrations.

    A very social person, McClellan immediately began hosting openings and jazz concerts at his space. By inviting arts lovers to an area almost completely unknown to them, he opened new horizons to artists on the lookout for studio space. 

    His initiative in locating an art facility in this unlikely place sparked a group of artists to organize the nonprofit Warehouse Arts District Association (WADA) in 2011, and three years later the group had raised enough funds to purchase an old 2.7-acre industrial site, just around the corner from McClellan’s complex. Tired of the sad tradition of artists discovering and popularizing an area only to be priced out by developers, their goal is to transform 50,000 square feet of six abandoned buildings along the Pinellas Trail into affordable working spaces, classrooms, galleries and performance spaces.

    So far the group has raised over $500,000, with a goal of $3.2 million by 2017. The proposed ArtsXchange (AX) buildings will house these studios, which will be between 100-400 square feet each. Already there are several studios, exhibition and class spaces operating on the campus.

    The Soft Water Laundry site houses working space for seven, including painters, sculptors, clay and graphic artists. They’ve also offered weekly live model classes for several years, priced at $7 every Tuesday from 6:30-9 p.m. and attracting artists from Dunedin to Sarasota.

    Mark Aeling’s MGA Sculpture Studio enjoys site-specific commissions from throughout the country in a broad range of materials and styles. Works from this studio grace the Sundial retail complex, the Florida Aquarium and a host of homes. Aeling, a district pioneer in his own right, is president of the Warehouse Arts District Association board of directors.

    During the Shine Mural Program last year, Carrie Jadus painted two joyful murals that tip folks off to the idea that this is a special area: “Tesla” and “Little Miss Sisyphus” grace the Genius Central building, which is adjacent to the Pinellas Trail. Jadus, whose studio is at Soft Water, is enthusiastic about the collaborative spirit at WADA.

    “Four years ago when we started opening our studios no one wanted to drive here, so we artists each paid $50/month to pay for rubber-wheeled trolleys to bring people here. After one year, sponsors started picking up the tab because they recognized the value that this monthly arts event, Second Saturday Art Walks, brings to the community.”

    Six months ago, WADA hired Mary Jane Park, a 30-year Tampa Bay Times veteran writer and editor, to promote the area. Her goal is to raise money for WADA projects and to introduce collectors, artists and visitors to the abundant creativity residing in this unlikely location. 

    “Once people find this place,” she vows, “they’re hooked!”

  • 30 Dec 2015 1:50 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    Tampa has a historic link with Cuba that dates back over a century, but it’s St. Petersburg that is forging the first major cultural exchange with the island nation’s government since relations between it and the U.S. began normalizing a year ago.

    With it, St. Petersburg perhaps gains an advantage in the competition to host the first Cuban consulate in the U.S. in more than five decades.

    “St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has said that art and culture serve to build relationships and diplomacy,” said Bill Carlson, president of Tucker- Hall, a public relations agency in Tampa that has supported business and humanitarian missions in Cuba since 1999. “We are hopeful this leads to a mutually beneficial relationship between Cuba and the Tampa Bay area.” (continue reading)

  • 21 Dec 2015 12:29 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Mark Aeling is in his element, standing in the middle of artwork, talking about the virtues of St. Petersburg and the local art community. Aeling is the president of the Warehouse District Association.

    Friday he spent time talking with eight members of a delegation from Cuba, telling them about the plans for the Warehouse District and the local arts scene. “It’s an incredible opportunity, and I just feel very, very fortunate,” Aeling said. (continue reading)

  • 23 Nov 2015 4:30 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    November 23, 2015
    For Immediate Release
    Please Contact:  Mary Jane Park, 727.826.7211, maryjane@whereartismade.com


     The Warehouse Arts District Association Hosts No-Agenda Artists Party


    St. Petersburg, FL. – Warehouse Arts District It’s a free party!

    The Warehouse Arts District Association will host a no-agenda, no-cost, no-strings-attached party from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 3, at the ArtsXchange, 515 22nd St. S.

    Join the association and the St. Pete Arts Alliance in celebrating creators from all mediums: visual, literary and performing. It’s a networking event for artists and others; dress is casual, as the site is an industrial property.

    Highlights will include samples from the Maggie on the Move food truck; beer, wine and nonalcoholic beverages; and a DJ. In-kind sponsors are Mastry’s Brewing, the Amsterdam and Cheers! Events.

    RSVP online

    About the Warehouse Arts District

    The Warehouse Arts District Association is a 501(c)3 nonprofit membership organization devoted to: (i) furnishing affordable studio space to artists of every medium; (ii) providing opportunities for interaction between the public and the St. Petersburg community of artists; (iii) promoting cultural growth and diversity of all art forms in St. Pete; and (iv) providing art educational opportunities to the public.  Founded in 2012, the Warehouse Arts District Association membership includes artists, galleries, art suppliers and supporters who believe that the Warehouse Arts District of St. Petersburg can become a special destination for the arts.

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  • 08 Jun 2015 3:05 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    That Business Show with Jaime Meloni [Video] - Learn about the Arts scene & renaissance going on in Tampa Bay with Mark Aeling, Warehouse Arts District Board President.

  • 19 May 2015 4:16 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    From 83 Degrees Media by Kendra Langlie - Big picture problem: Artists and the arts they create often serve as a catalyst for economic and urban development. Yet a cyclical phenomenon occurs in cities nationwide whereby rents soar and artists can no longer afford the very neighborhoods they helped develop. (continue reading)

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