If it has to do with art in St Petersburg, you'll likely find John Collins involved. The Executive Director of the St. Pete Arts Alliance works tirelessly on behalf of artists, galleries and events. From his office in the St Petersburg Chamber of Commerce he directs events like the mural festival, Shine and also contributes to Chamber, Economic Development and Grow Smarter committees. John's work became even harder this year as Florida drastically cut funding to arts initiatives. Money has always been a limiting factor for art in St Petersburg, but now the Arts Alliance will have to make major adjustments in its work. Focusing on advocacy to boost razor thin budgets is the new normal. If there's anyone that can find a way to make it work, it's John Collins.
Years in St. Pete
Organizations involved in
Through the Arts Alliance, I seem to be involved in almost all of the arts and cultural organizations in one way or another. I don’t serve on any of their boards because could be misconstrued because we are a granting agency and we want to make sure we provide fair and equitable grants based on their applications. I have the pleasure of serving on the Grow Smarter committee representing culture and community. Also safety and housing. I also serve on the Creative Design committee of the Economic Development Corporation. So arts are at the table, as best as I can represent them.
What gets you out of bed every day?
I love my job. I cannot believe I have created a job that I dream about 24/7. Every day there is something new. A father walked into my office today looking for a scholarship for his 11 year old daughter in fine arts and we were able to get him one.
Why St. Pete?
My wife and I like to say we live in St Pete. When anyone asks, we never say we live in Florida. We live in St Pete – it’s a very very special place. We came here a long time ago. At point we did leave for the job of my dreams. What we found out is that we missed St Pete. We came back here after I finished my obligation a year and a half later and started volunteering in the arts. I got involved in the Arts Advisory Committee. One thing led to another. More arts involvement and that ultimately led to establishing the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance
What is one habit that you keep?
One bad habit is paying way too much attention to my iPhone
Who are some people that influence you?
Bill Heller, who deserves the credit or the blame for bringing me to St Petersburg. He is a gentleman, an energizer bunny, a visionary. Someone who I came here to work for for those reasons. The person I would choose to emulate is my father.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
I would suggest the one that my wife is always saying to me – mindfulness. Stay in the present. If we’re constantly worrying about what the future is going to do to us, we’ll never get there.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
I am continually surprised every year. It’s the same – how do we build the foundation of the arts in this city brick by brick, artist by artist, theatre by theatre, dance by dance. I think time speeds up as I get older. Working 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week, if you enjoy it, it’s not work.
We have big plans – I just hope we can continue to find the funding for them. A return to advocacy – Florida decided they are not going to fund the arts this year. We cannot deliver on things we had hoped to deliver on – that we had received matching funds for and now we’re not able to bring touring companies to community.