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Catalyze 2023: Markus Gottschlich, Warehouse Arts District Association

Bill DeYoung

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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 executive director of the Warehouse Arts District Association has a few ideas for making St. Petersburg even more arts-friendly in 2023.

While it remains true that arts organizations are in dire need – as always – of more financial and public support, Markus Gottschlich points out, and the “the increasingly disparaging workforce housing issue (for artists especially)” must be dealt with, there’s still additional work to be done.

The Austria-born administrator, who took on the job six month ago, has been observing the way things work here in St. Pete. “A city that prides itself on the arts would do well to increase the integration and frequency of arts leaders in planning and budgeting decision-making processes,” he says. “Creating and nurturing vibrant art spaces as the city expands is not only the ‘right thing to do’, it increases measurable standards such as walkability, profits in the surrounding hospitality and service industry venues and the overall quality of life factors – to name a few.

“To do this well, the arts and culture venues, let alone entire districts, need to be treated and nurtured as public assets.”

And how about this? “New developments that thrive on selling the lifestyle that St. Pete offers could ‘deck the halls’ with local art, instead of buying art in bulk overseas that creates a superficial ‘sense of place.’ If wings and floors of new condo buildings are named after famous artists – if the arts are important enough to do that – why not look to actively participate and support the local scene? That would be contributing to the well that they drink from.”

At WADA, Gottschlich pledges, “we will pursue a strengthened connection with developers, among other important partnerships.”

In the past half year, he says, “We have seen a heavy increase in foot traffic in all our galleries, member support, event attendance and rental inquiries. These are all signs of having become a destination.” Gottschlich insists on giving out shout-out to patrons who visit the Tully-Levine Gallery and the other spaces at the ArtsXchange, WADA’s central campus – and to the artists themselves, who, he adds, are continually upping their game.

Fostering a real sense of community, of course, is paramount. “Collaborating frequently with neighboring organizations such as Deuces Live and the Green Book of Tampa Bay is a very important positive change we will continue to nurture in 2023,” he says.

“Another change that we have been excited about is the prospect of building our own outdoor stage and movie screen. This speaks also to our desire to unite the visual – with the performing arts and our commitment to presenting culturally unique programming, corresponding to the needs and interests of our community.”

And there’s one more thing: “I’d like to see more public support for the supporters. For over a decade now, the Warehouse Arts District Association has been the only organization in St. Pete that has made it its core mission to heavily subsidize tenant studios rents, providing a safe and affordable place for artists and businesses to thrive. A natural continuation of this mission is to advocate now for affordable housing for artists. With support from the city or county, WADA could be a beacon for successful integration of workforce housing on our ArtsXchange campus.”

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    Shirley Hayes

    December 19, 2022at10:58 pm

    Please make good use of trees, possibly some fruit trees as you remodel the areas in the district. Some green benches would be a good idea also.

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