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Arts Alliance queries St. Pete’s mayoral candidates

Bill DeYoung



Photo: Unsplash

The St. Petersburg Arts Alliance reached out to the St. Petersburg mayoral candidates, making pointed inquiries about the role the arts play in the growth, and health, of the city.

According to the organization, five of the candidates responded to the questions posed:

  1. What role do you envision art and culture playing within your administration and within the overall economic development of the city?
  2. Would your administration commit to adequate and consistent funding of the arts and if so, what would be the revenue source for your commitment?
  3. In your opinion, what are a few goals that your administration would outline to expand and enhance the arts within St. Petersburg?


Pete Boland

  1. Integral to our funky culture and identity. A pillar to the St Pete experience. From attracting visitors to inspiring new ways to think about things. Art can shift paradigms, challenges ideas, and stretches imaginations. Knowledge is important, but it’s imagination that changes the world. The way we live our life is art. Or it should be. The community should reflect that. Artists live here, gotta keep em, and spotlight em. Make art part of all other programs. Creative solutions are art.
  2. Yes, we need to have a primary focus on local artists. Also, there needs to be an effort to educate our citizens on the value and cultural importance of a vibrant arts scene. We can also continue to forge strong partnerships with the private sector so those interested in the arts know where and how to invest in the artists and their creativity.  The government can stay out of the way of artists & support larger events that draw more artists and more lovers of the arts to our colorful city.
  3. We can enhance and expand the arts by doubling-down on the things that are already working, we need to support & listen to the pioneers of the scene by giving them a seat at the table & by involving those creators with organizations like the Shine Mural Festival. When tackling new developments, we should also connect local artists and creators to Community Benefits Agreements so that their work is showcased and a part of new canvases being built around our city. We also must consider housing options for the art community so that the creators are not priced out of a community they helped to paint so beautifully.


Wengay Newton

  1. I have always voted for, supported and funded the Arts. The Arts is an economic driver and will continue to be during my administration.
  2. Increase.
  3. Increase the percentage for public Art on city construction projects and lobby all new construction in our city to contribute to an Arts endowment. I am the longest tenured candidate in St. Petersburg City Government.


 Marcile Powers

  1. I have big plans to add some interactive art installations into the city at the South side parks. Having positive hip-hop shows. I am for implementing the guaranteed artist income.
  2. Increase.
  3. The installations, positive hip-hop. I’d love to encourage more theater and filmmaking. I’d love to see the old wagon wheel site converted into a film studio.


Darden Rice

  1. I envision art and culture playing a vital role in my administration, and I know that they are both critical pieces of our overall economic development strategy in the city. As Mayor, I intend to elevate the current arts staff position higher within the administration and task the individual holding that position to work with the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, the Downtown Partnership, individual local artists, and other stakeholders to come up with a unified strategy to take the arts to the next level in St. Petersburg. I also want to work with the arts community to rebrand St. Pete in a way that emphasizes our arts and tech culture. I have been talking with stakeholders about the updates to the Comprehensive Arts Strategy and look forward to working together on this to improve the sustainability of the arts in our city.
  2. As Mayor, I will increase city funding for the arts. I firmly believe that St. Pete must do more than we ever have before to support the artists who make this place so special with their work.
  3. We must bring people together and work as a coalition to come up with a plan to expand the arts in St. Pete in a strategic, sustainable way. As I mentioned in the previous question, it will be critical for our city to have an elevated arts staff position within the administration to help create this plan and get us moving on it quickly and effectively. I also think it’s important to involve other municipalities like Tampa and Clearwater, and their respective arts organizations and artists, to ensure that we’re all on the same page and working towards the common goal of the Tampa Bay region becoming an even more prominent arts destination.


Ken Welch

  1. The vibrant arts community in St. Petersburg is central to our identity and makes St. Petersburg the city that it is. The Arts are what connect every sector of our community – governments, minority, LGBTQ, business, and faith-based – to one another. My plan for the city’s overall economic development includes support for The Arts in St. Petersburg alongside our core business sectors, along with startups and small businesses. I’ve been a small business owner who grew up working in my family’s business. Moreover, I’ve worked in large companies. I’m an accountant and a technology manager. I know what companies must do to balance their books, utilize technology for service delivery and decision making, and provide the highest level of customer service. With all that experience behind me, I’ll work to expand economic opportunities for our artists. New public-private partnerships and other initiatives for job training, education, small business incubators, and mentorships are key.
  2. Yes, I would increase city funding of the arts and look for opportunities to support the arts in St. Petersburg with state and federal funding. I’ll help foster increased collaboration and partnership with Creative Pinellas and other regional arts organizations to enable us to leverage more state and federal funding for projects and programs.
  3. I will leverage my experience as a three-time Countywide Tourist Development Council Chair and relationships across the region to explore new funding sources and national and international opportunities to advance the arts here locally in St. Petersburg. As part of my Opportunity Agenda, I will develop a solution set of policies, services, programs, and projects focused on providing expanded opportunities for The Arts in St. Petersburg.  One of those solutions has to do with Housing. The people—small business owners and entrepreneurs, artists and musicians, restauranteurs, contractors, teachers, first responders, our military, our families are what makes St. Petersburg so special. We can’t let those who are responsible for making St. Pete such a vibrant community, like our artists, be priced out of St. Petersburg’s housing market.
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