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With Just Getting Started, Deputy Mayor and City Administrator Dr. Kanika Tomalin is “telling the St. Pete story” through one-on-one conversations with change-makers. With many exciting plans and projects on the horizon, St. Petersburg’s upward trajectory remains strong. “So much has been done, but here’s the secret: We’re just getting started.”

06/27/2020 | Episode 02 | 25:56

Just Getting Started: A limitless vision of St. Pete as a City of the Arts

Ep. 02: A City of the Arts every resident can be proud of

Dr. Tomalin's guest is Wayne Atherholt, Director of the Department of Cultural Affairs for the City of St. Petersburg. They discuss the important role played by the arts in the healthy development of the city, as both an inspiration and a proven economic driver. Dr. Tomalin and Atherholt recall an advance tour they both took of the massive, soon-to-open Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, and talk about the giant "floating sculpture" design by Tampa native (and world-renowned artist) Janet Echelman for the new St. Pete Pier. The groundbreaking, six-year-old SHINE Mural Festival is discussed, as well as the importance of the performing arts in a community of this size and diversity.

Key Insights

  • Over the last six to eight years, Atherholt says, with the increase in murals and other public art, St. Petersburg has physically transformed itself into a City of the Arts.
  • With regard to public art, the city’s strategy was to make St. Pete itself a museum experience, free of charge and open 24 hours a day.
  • He compares modern St. Pete to 1870s Paris, at the dawn of the Impressionist movement, “when there was a sidewalk café culture developing, and a whole lot of interaction with the artists.”
  • The new Black Lives Matter mural, created by 16 different artists at the Dr. Carter G, Woodson Museum of African American History, has already become a visitor destination.
  • When it opens, the privately-owned Museum of the American Arts & Crafts Movement will be the largest museum in St. Petersburg. “It would be at home in any of the world’s great cities,” Dr. Tomalin says.
  • The internationally-renowned Janet Echelman, whose 320-foot floating sculpture will soon be installed at the new Pier, came to the attention of the City’s Public Arts Commission through her mother, who met the commission chair at a St. Pete exhibit opening and happened to say “Oh, my daughter is an artist …”
  • The postcard view of downtown St. Pete, as seen from Tampa Bay, will feature the Echelman piece prominently, says Atherholt, declaring “This is a city where art is at the forefront.”
  • For a city this size, they agree, it’s incredible to have seven separate and distinct arts districts.
  • As a young marketing person 35 years ago, Atherholt had his hands full trying to put St. Pete on the arts map. “We had nothing to work with. It was all smoke and mirrors

"There is a great passion in the city for making it a better place. And art is one of those areas that there is so much passion for, and it makes our lives so much better."

Mural by artist Zulu Painter, Campbell Park, St. Petersburg.

"You can do anything you want in St. Petersburg, if you put your mind to it. And I think the arts have proven that."

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About the host

Dr. Kanika Tomalin is a thought leader, policy-maker, community ambassador, and health advocate.

As the first African-American, female Deputy Mayor and City Administrator of one of Florida’s largest cities, Dr. Kanika Tomalin is a role model for women from all walks of life and an advocate for innovative policies, equitable community revitalization, healthy families, at-risk youth and education.

Her signature initiative, Healthy St. Pete, which launched in 2014, has made community health a priority and impacts the lives of thousands of Sunshine City residents. By creating access to healthy food options, implementing free fitness zones in city parks and adding resources for individuals and families to make healthy living easier – Dr. Tomalin has made a tangible difference.

Dr. Tomalin’s understanding of the critical role health plays as a determinant of overall quality of life was shaped prior to her career in the public sector. She quickly climbed the ranks in the healthcare industry, most recently serving as the regional vice president of External Affairs for the Bayfront Health Network and director of Strategy for Health Management Associates’ 23-hospital Florida Group.

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