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SunLit, dark art and ’80s Ybor: Your weekend arts forecast

Bill DeYoung



"Gates of Hell," Theo Wujcik, 1987, acrylic and collage on canvas.

The 5th annual SunLit Festival, with 24 – count ‘em – 24 literary and book-related events across St. Petersburg opens tonight (7 p.m.) with a kickoff soiree at the Chihuly Collection, 720 Central. This one’s a fundraiser for Keep St. Pete Lit, the festival’s root organization, with food, drink, live music, camaraderie and mingling and the opportunity to show your support for something unique and cool in our community. Tickets for the kickoff are available here.

Most of the other SunLit events over the next 18 days, a most diverse bunch, are free. “I want people to think outside the box with literature,” organizer Maureen McDole told us.

Here’s the complete schedule.

Paul Wilborn. Photo: 83 Degrees Media.

Monday night, Palladium Theater executive director Paul Wilborn will speak at Mirror Lake Library, talking about his just-published book Cigar City: Tales From a 1980s Creative Ghetto. Wilborn, a former journalist for the St. Petersburg Times, Tampa Tribune and Associated Press, has crafted a work of fiction based on non-fiction: It’s a series of short stories inspired by period photographs of Ybor City by David Audet.

When Ybor was in its bohemian heyday, after the cigar factories and before urban renewal, upscale rents and the armies of hipsters arrived, it was home to a community of artists, writers, poets, musicians and actors. Wilborn and Audet among them.

Monday’s reading, featuring both writer and photographer, begins at 5:30 p.m.

Originally set for tonight (April 11) at the Museum of Fine Arts, a similar program with Wilborn and his book has been rescheduled for May 23.

Nevertheless, Ybor City still plays a prominent role in the MFA’s weekend, as Theo Wujcik: Cantos opens Saturday (and runs through June 2). The late painter and printmaker, a professor of art at the University of South Florida, was a familiar figure in Ybor in the 1980s and ‘90s. Cantos focuses on the literary references in his work – notably, a series inspired by Dante’s Inferno. Amon other examples of Wucjik’s work, the museum will exhibit its new acquisition, the 1987 diptych Gates of Hell, acrylic and collage on canvas.


Many of the area’s top musicians – from acoustic Americana and blues and rock ‘n’ roll – will perform during Saturday’s day-long celebration of the Hideaway Café’s 10th anniversary. John Kelly’s listening room and restaurant, in the Grand Central District, has city permission to close the side street and put up a second stage (there’ll be continuous music inside, too). Neighbors, including The Burg Bar & Grill, Lolita’s Wine Market, Avid Brew Company, Spitfire Theater and Neosoul Café are participating in this celebratory block party, with food, bevs and all sorts of fun stuff, kicking off at 2 p.m.

Also happening Saturday: The St. Petersburg Arts Alliance’s Second Saturday ArtWalk (here’s the map of participating galleries and studios, and the available trolley stops) and Record Store Day, the national celebration independent vinyl retailers, once a vanishing breed, no making a strong comeback. For Record Store Day, labels both large and indie make available a number of limited-edition titles, which are only available at certain indie shops. Happy hunting!

Rebekah Pulley. Hideawaycafe.biz

Singer/songwriter Rebekah Pulley, who has a new album (The Sea of Everything) coming out shortly, has the opening slot at Saturday’s Hideaway Café bash, at 2 p.m. Come Tuesday (April 16), Pulley will play in an entirely different environment – the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art. Her set there begins at 5:30 p.m.

Guest conductor Gemma New takes the Florida Orchestra podium at the Mahaffey Theater this weekend. The program, featuring Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 and Schumann’s Manfred Overture, also features TFO Principal Second Violinist on Anna Clyne’s concerto for solo violin and orchestra The Seamstress. The British-born Clyne was commissioned to write the piece during her tenure as  composer-in-residence with the Chicago Symphony. At the Mahaffey Theater: Along with the regular TFO Masterworks performance date Saturday night, the orchestra will repeat the program for a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee. It’s also presented at the Straz Center in Tampa Friday evening. All tickets available here.


Other weekend highlights

American Stage is at Demens Landing Park, on the bay, for its first weekend of the musical Mamma Mia!

Boz Scaggs, Jonny Lang and Tab Benoit are among the performers at the Tampa Bay Blues Festival in Vinoy Park.

Lynn Nottage’s drama Crumbs From the Table of Joy is in its final few days at freeFall Theater.

Jazz, sweet jazz: Backed by a swingin’ quartet, singer Synia Carroll and Scotty Wright perform the music of Sarah Vaughn and Billy Eckstine Friday at the Palladium Theater.


Hello, arts organizations, companies, producers and performers: Please add bill@stpetecatalyst.com to your press release mailing list. We want to cover everything arts-related in St. Pete and beyond! Thanks!

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