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Artist Steven Kenny is leaving St. Petersburg

Bill DeYoung

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Artist Steven Kenny in his Kenwood studio. On the easel: "The Cave," 2020. Photo: Bill DeYoung

The continuing development of St. Petersburg has cost it one of its very best artists.

Steven Kenny, whose “surrealist baroque” paintings, fanciful oils depicting human figures in (sometimes unnatural) natural settings, is leaving town after 10 years. St. Pete, he believes, has lost a lot of its charm.

“The Procession,” Steven Kenny (2021)

Kenny and his wife, artist Diohn Brancaleoni, have purchased a farmhouse near rural Floyd, Virginia and will depart mid-summer.

“The St. Pete we fell in love with 10 years ago – when the 600 block was all groovy and stuff, that’s all gone obviously – and with all the development that’s happening, it’s really changing,” Kenny says. “I think nobody would disagree that in the last 10 years it’s changed drastically.”

Kenny is quick to point out that the city isn’t getting “too big,” exactly. “Because for the arts, and the artists here, that’s such a good thing. But it doesn’t have the same character that it did 10 years ago. And that’s why we came, so we’re kind of looking for that again and seem to have found it back in Virginia.”

The couple lived in Virginia for a period before relocating to St. Pete in 2012. They’ve been living in historic Kenwood, in a bungalow with a carriage house studio out back.

A few years ago, Kenny explains, they began talking about moving out. When Asheville, North Carolina – their first choice – proved too expensive, they focused on Virginia, where they had bunked in the late 1990s. “We miss it quite a bit,” he says.

The town of Floyd “has got a great music scene, and arts scene, lots of hippies running around. It’s just really cool. And the place we found is not far from there.”

“Sunrise,” Steven Kenny (2013)”

Music has always been an important presence in Steven Kenny’s life. Inspired by early prog rock album covers, from bands such as Yes and King Crimson, he earned a BFA in illustration and went to work – he designed covers for Journey, Heart and others, and created memorable package artwork for Celestial Seasonings Herbal Tea (nine box covers of animals and flowers), Microsoft, AT&T and others.

But working as an illustrator, he found, was less than satisfying.

Enter fine art. Today, Steven Kenny’s oils are in galleries all over the country, and are prized by collectors.

He admits he can create his work anywhere – the only essential locale is his fertile imagination.

“St. Pete has been really, really good to me in that sense,” he says. “It took a while to re-calibrate myself once I got here after moving from the north. But moving back to Virginia, to a much more rural environment, is going to be probably better for me.”

He is, to be clear, not leaving with anything resembling a bitter taste in his mouth.

“As far as what St. Pete is doing to nurture other artists, I think there’s a really wonderful foundation here with St. Pete Arts Alliance, Creative Pinellas and lots of other venues for artists to maybe make a name for themselves. I think there’s a lot of support in place, which is a great thing.”

RELATED STORY: The artist up close: ‘Baroque surrealist’ Steven Kenny

 

 

 

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Nancy cohen

    May 25, 2021at4:54 pm

    St Pete is definitely losing the charm of Steven Kenny! He’s been a generous contributor to the arts scene and will be sorely missed. But HEY! It’s still a charming city!!

  2. Avatar

    OriginalJud

    May 25, 2021at8:43 pm

    I agree with him. The downtown scene I fell in love with was the 600 block because my son’s band was playing in all those bars every night.

  3. Avatar

    Pfin

    May 25, 2021at9:06 pm

    A lot of people have been saying St Petersburg,has lost the feeling of what it had years ago .The city has let tomany. High rises,and it has basically gentrified the city,where it is so over crowded..you have to be wealthy to rent in st Pete or buy.The builders from up north have gradually made the town not welcoming.So sad for people who grew up here.These transplants from new York seem to get away with tearing down place on our national register,A lot of people who come back to st Pete said it looks like Tampa,It’s lost its small city feel out of greed and pressure from builders who travel the country and look for places to make a buck and ruin lives of locals.crime climbs and traffic is a mess,infrastructure is busting at its seams.We who grew up here will miss our city,because this is not st Pete anymore.The whole state has been under attack from these developers are out for there pockets.we are overpopulated.

  4. Avatar

    Gregory King

    May 26, 2021at4:49 am

    Agreed!! I might be right behind him soon. Hyper growth around here… paying premiums to live like canned tuna.

  5. Avatar

    Joe Rizzo

    May 26, 2021at9:45 am

    Oh what a shame … a city grows and makes PROGRESS

  6. Avatar

    Abraham Mosteah

    May 26, 2021at11:59 am

    Sad to see him go, although a person can only take rude people for so long before they need to make massive changes. My experience with the gallery scene here hasn’t exactly been a bed of roses. Ageist teenagers have been given executive position, and it seems all the galleries are dead set on only showing the 20 something artist. If you’re over 30, they’ll smile and say “thanks, but we’re not interested. I was personally accosted by not one, but two people at one of the larger places in the warehouse district. They’d failed to keep their word to allow me to show in April. To be honest, I think they were so worried about failing to do the right thing that they decided to just find a way, anyway to get rid of me. They were also very embarrassed because the quote I’d been given was no longer an option. They raised the monthly rent by $150 more than promised. Although I was prepared to pay the higher rent, somehow the process of getting in was such an important secret that neither of them would even try to explain it. If they do that to all the gay artists, I think a civil lawsuit would be appropriate.

    I’ve only lived here for 6 years, but I’m ready to move to Miami, where I never had a problem getting art shows. If somebody were to get rid of all the bad apples, I’d stay. But even getting gas fir my car here can be traumatic. I had a guy pull in behind me while I was pumping gas. I looked at when he was pulling in behind me at an unsafe speed. When he got out of the car, he promptly walked over to me and started shoving me in the chest. On the third shove, I tripped over the pump nozzle and fell down. Two other people saw what was happening and came over and pulled him off of me. I immediately called 911, because this guy anger issues I didn’t feel able to manage. When I tried to take him to court, I was told by the Manatee county district attorney that there werte no witnesses, even though my partner watched it all unfold from inside the store. And we had contacts on the two that pulled him off. He’d even managed to key my brand new car, scraping the paint down to the metal. I won’t even mention how rude and dangerous the drivers are here. I watched a guy going about 65mph on a 30 mph road. A car was crossing the street. He killed it, without remorse or even awareness. I don’t know who’s cat it was, but she was pretty. No collar, though. I couldn’t call anyone except animal control. These people are dangerous to live with. I hope karma is still a working thing, cause all of them have made me so angry. I hope the rest of the population doesn’t have to go through these kinds of things. Khama is a nasty bi*ch!

  7. Avatar

    Erik

    June 23, 2021at7:25 pm

    Well if these same people are still on the city council when we get a new mayor then nothing is going to change ..and high rises will continue to get built..and the housing prices will continue to sky rocket.. what were nice apartments around the city are now taken over by out of town hedge fund companies and the rents have become outrageous.. but this is what happens when you build high rises on top of each other…

  8. Avatar

    Kathleen Gray

    October 23, 2021at12:25 pm

    The city I grew up in is gone! No more mom and pop stores.apartment rent is double than other counties .?Families that have lived her for generations can not afford a simple home! We need new blood in the mayors office and city council! We desperately need a rent moratorium as well as a building moratorium for high raisers old 12 story’s! The criminal element will continue to grow with all the wealth coming to our once sleepy beach town! Shame on all of you for ruining out tropical oasis!😭

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