Catalyze 2023: Hank Hine
We’re asking thought leaders, business people, and creatives to talk about 2023 and give us catalyzing ideas for making St. Pete a better place to live. What should our city look like? What are their hopes, their plans, their problem-solving ideas? This is Catalyze 2023.
The Dali Museum had a very good year. In November, voters approved a ballot referendum allowing the city-owned facility to expand by building a 20,000-square-foot addition on what’s currently known as Lot 6, a surface parking lot. Taxpayers won’t have to foot the bill, either.
Dr. Hank Hine, the Dali’s executive director, is thrilled what 2022 brought. Numerous city and county studies have shown that The Dali is the top tourist draw in St. Petersburg. “This means that we have a path forward, to expand judiciously our facility so that we can create these experiences in education, and in entertainment, through art, that will further enrich people’s lives,” he says. “And that’s why we’re here.”
Looking ahead to the new year, he’s got a few ideas that – perhaps surprisingly – don’t directly involve his museum.
“There are other things besides art in this community,” Hine explains. “And one of the things I really look forward to is the continued fluorescence of culinary arts. Individual proprietors starting up places and making superb, interesting food.
“We make food part of our Dali experience too, because that’s the human propensity, to connect in every way possible to an environment – the smells, the light, ingesting foods, drinking – you know, we’re these beautiful, physical animals that really inhabit an environment.
“Food is wonderful, I love the breweries, the distilleries … I had a friend in Tampa named Jack Winter who said ‘There’s no civilization without distilled liquor.’ So I’m glad we’ve got the St. Pete distilleries carrying the torch.”
The forward march of technology, fueling St. Petersburg’s unprecedented growth, pleases him … with a caveat. “I think it’s a great time, because so much is rushing to the future here,” Hine says. “The technology, the growth of the city. But it’s really a time also to look back and make sure that we honor the things that have made this city so wonderful. The Black and white founders of the city, the neighborhoods and their qualities.
“I think that we should be very proud of this recent addition of The Pier. It’s just an unmitigated success; it’s tastefully done, the commerce is thoughtful and sparing and embraces the transitional environment, from sea to shore.
“And I think we have to move cautiously to embrace some of the things from the past. Places where the land value is at the point that it almost threatens a tradition. It’s really important for our very intelligent developers in this area to be thoughtful about, what is truly the highest and best uses of places like that. There’s no way to replace the Flamingo Bar, you know?”
Similarly, he takes some issue with the City’s proposal to dub the bayfront space occupied by the Dali and the Mahaffey Theater “The Center for the Arts.”
“Development,” Hine stresses, “has to be thoughtful. And we’ve been scrupulously thoughtful about how we approach this. This City has a vision for this area, but I don’t think it should be called the Center For the Arts. That’s a little chauvinistic – there’s lots of centers of artistic activity and we value them all.”
A verbal tug-of-war over the future of Lot 6 ensued between Dali and Mahaffey administrators, both of whom sought permission for capital improvements.
“This corner here, with an airport, with a municipal theater, with a soccer stadium and where the boat show goes – and The Florida Orchestra, above all – we should think about a holistic way of developing that all together,” Hine says. “The City staff has a vision of how this can be developed over time. And all that’s needed is money, because the vision’s there. So I’m really optimistic that we’ll produce a dynamic center here that’s even more powerful than it’s been in the past.”
As for the Dali’s immediate neighbor to the north – “The Mahaffey is a gem. We value the programming there, we value what a municipal theater does, that has no financial return. The kids’ programs. The honoring of the teachers that goes on there, the graduations – as well as the mainstream entertainment.
“So in addition to The Florida Orchestra, in addition to improved entry and exits all around, a covered entry for the Mahaffey Theater, all that is envisioned, I think it’s very important to do, and will be achieved, and will improve this for everyone.”