Those in tune with the performing arts scene in Tampa Bay have probably heard of Alex Harris. The award-winning recording artist has a timeless sound. He's well known for performing originals and covers of classic hits by Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and Otis Redding. But he's much more than his music. Alex Harris is the co-founder of the Arts Conservatory for Teens (ACT). In its seventh year in St. Petersburg, ACT provides before and after school programming that educates, empowers, and enriches the lives of underprivileged students. Now sponsored in five Pinellas middle schools, ACT meets the needs of over 500 students in the area. Harris and his co-founder, along with numerous volunteers use ACT to share their love of the arts and foster a confidence, creativity, and a sense of possibility for their students.
Years in St. Pete
Organizations involved in
Florida Orchestra Board of Directors, Community Committee of Museum of Fine Arts St. Pete, Arts Alliance, Grammy’s Board
What gets you out of bed every day?
My calling to share what I’ve been gifted to do. And that is live the inspiration of what I believe to be a god-given gift of life and talent and many gifts.
Why St. Pete?
I think St. Pete is breeding group for any artist or entrepreneur that believes that they have what it takes, and St. Pete will get behind you whether you have it or not. And there are many people here, I think the energy of the city right now is so embracing to new ideas and to innovation. It has become this magnet.
What is one habit that you keep?
Early in the morning I get up between 4:30-5 o’clock and in that timeI focus on the present moment through meditation and prayer. The prayer part is something I learned to do every morning growing up, but the meditation I learned later in life and I’ve been doing that for years now.
Who are some people that influence you?
My parents are my first influence. My mother and father have been people who have dared to dream and be awaked from the dream and to pursue the vision. They embrace people, there’s always been more than just my seven siblings in the house. So that part of me, embracing people, comes from them.
I consider myself a pretty spiritual person. That’s one of my greatest influences – faith, committment, dedication. Learning from influences such as Dr. King, Gandhi. Modern people like Oprah, even Tyler Perry – he was way out there by Hollywood standards, but he didn’t let that stop him, he believed in himself and what he was doing, and he brought Hollywood to him. People ask me all the time, “You’re in art, why are you not in New York, LA, Atlanta?” I want to be somewhere that I believe I can bring it here.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
Book: The Art of Community – when you talk about building culture, we have to become great listeners. Listening with our ears, eyes, feelings. Understand context, as well as the opportunities to build on the existing culture, and bringing something to contribute to that.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
I wish I knew that it’s not as hard as it may seem. When I first started I was like how do you really sell the story or tell the story. This was new ground for me. Many people didn’t know who the heck Alex is but I learned that if you have some “stick-to-it-ness” I think that you finally get through to the other end. A lot of people give up in the process. Don’t focus on the process, focus on the end game.
For me, a release of a new single, hopefully by the end of April. For ACT, we have the Third Annual Champions for ACT Breakfast on May 4th at the Morean Arts Center.