Connect with us


Meet the new Warehouse Arts District Association director

Bill DeYoung



Warehouse Arts District Association Executive Director Markus Gottschlich inside the Tully-Levine Gallery on the ArtsXChange campus. Photo by Bill DeYoung.

It’s been 25 years since Markus Gottschlich first discovered St. Petersburg. He was a wide-eyed, basketball-playing, English-speaking kid from Austria on an unprecedented global adventure. He attended Admiral Farragut Academy, graduated, and was soon off to New York to attend college.

But St. Pete, as it has a way of doing, got into his bloodstream.

Now Gottschlich is back as the newly hired executive director of the Warehouse Arts District Association (WADA). His job, with which he is clearly thrilled, is to continue the nonprofit’s forward momentum, further its stated mission (“to build and sustain a vibrant arts community in St. Petersburg that supports the success of all artists and the community at large”) and ensure the district’s central “campus,” the ArtsXchange at 22nd Street and 5th Avenue South, engages and supports the artists, businesses and community surrounding it.

He also happens to be a world-class jazz pianist who performs around the world. He’s recorded three albums. But long ago Markus Gottschlich discovered that he loved nonprofit work, and when the WADA position was posted, he knew right away that he had to apply.

“For me, it was the perfect storm of a couple things coming together,” he said. “What they’re doing here, first and foremost, the mission of WADA. I completely identify with it, because I know what it’s like to be an artist – to kind of be in the trenches. The mission of keeping these studios at an affordable rent price, I love that.”

Touring the campus, he saw the possibilities. “There’s so much we can do here, in terms of advancement. The new education center. It felt like it had all the ingredients, and it just needed to be activated. And that opportunity was just silently screaming at me.”

The clincher was his initial encounter with the artists and administrators on the WADA board of directors. “And after I met all the people who were so fundamental in bringing it all up to where it is right now, it seemed like they were all doing it for the right reasons,” Gottschlich explained. “None of them are doing it to promote themselves.

“So, good group of people to work with. An incredible place that’s really brimming with opportunity. And then – the rise of St. Petersburg, in terms of how much it’s changed. How it’s grown.

“All these things came together, for me, and it was a perfect fit. I’m just happy that they picked me.”

Equipped with a freshly-minted degree in International Business and Political Relations from Western Connecticut State University, he moved to Miami and got a boring day job.

“I was pretty good at the piano, but I didn’t necessarily pursue it as a career,” Gottschlich said. “That unfolded later, organically. I started playing at night. One thing led to another. Next thing I realize, I’m playing every night somewhere.

“From there I started curating a little concert series. From there I was invited to be artistic director of the Miami Beach Jazz Festival … and then I got into the nonprofit world. I realized that if I’m doing all this stuff for me, it still feels kind of empty at the end of the day.”

He began to pair the arts with education, inviting festival artists to perform at public schools, and interact with music students.

It was then, he said, “I started realizing the joy of the nonprofits’ work. Once that bug bites you, once you see how good you can do with placing arts and culture where it’s really needed … to see a child from a public school be onstage with a group that’s coming in from South Korea, that musical interaction, that life-changing experience, that got me on the nonprofit path and I’ve never really looked back.”

Gottschlich was Artistic Director of the Miami Beach Jazz Festival until 2016, and founded Jazz Academy Miami (JAM). In 2018, he was appointed Executive Director of the New Mexico Jazz Workshop; two years later, he relocated to Montclair, New Jersey, to serve as Director of Music at Jazz House Kids/Montclair Jazz Festival.

Florida “just feels like home,” he said. He’s trying to find a house in St. Petersburg, but feeling the “sellers’ market” pinch like everybody else.

There are 30 resident artists with studios on the WADA campus, and a citywide membership of 350 people. The 3,000-square-foot Frances McSwain Pruitt and J. Crayton Arts Education Center, which includes classrooms, artist studios and a dance studio with a specialized sprung floor, opened in January.

The wheels in Gottschlich’s mind are turning. He’s starting to see a bright and expanded future for the facility, and for the ArtsXchange campus itself.

Three weeks into his new job, however, “I have to understand the community first. I have to understand the community needs. We have a brand-new education center, so we’re going to start building out a great curriculum for that. But, do we understand what the community wants and needs there? Do we understand the kind of programming they’re going to go for there? We have to do some homework on that.”

He’s been immersing in the history of the area, and soon he intends to go around to every business in the Warehouse Arts District and introduce himself. “There’s about 300 businesses in our vicinity,” he said.

“I want to be able to serve the community well. We need to understand how we can serve the larger district.”

He likes the notion of WADA becoming “a go-to organization for all the businesses around.” An advocacy group with its own strength in numbers.

And maybe turning the campus into an arts and entertainment “destination,” and not just on Second Saturday ArtWalk days, when Seven C Music –  just a stone’s throw from the education center – opens up to hundreds of visitors with celebratory bands and beers.

There are lots of things to consider, Gottschlich knows, before he can lift a finger. “The good thing about being super brand new is I don’t have burnt bridges with anyone,” he joked. “I don’t have baggage.”

The changes will come. “I’m listening first. And I think if you’re a good musician or a good leader, you have to listen first.”

Markus Gottschlich will be at the ArtsXchange during Saturday’s ArtWalk – 5 to 9 p.m. – to chat with anyone and everyone.


Continue Reading
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Tirena Chiavacci

    July 6, 2022at9:05 pm

    Really loved the article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By posting a comment, I have read, understand and agree to the Posting Guidelines.

The St. Pete Catalyst

The Catalyst honors its name by aggregating & curating the sparks that propel the St Pete engine.  It is a modern news platform, powered by community sourced content and augmented with directed coverage.  Bring your news, your perspective and your spark to the St Pete Catalyst and take your seat at the table.

Email us:

Subscribe for Free

Share with friend

Enter the details of the person you want to share this article with.