Pinellas County was a changed place in 1984 when I moved back after fifteen years in Atlanta. Soon after arriving, I cranked up the old VW again for a homecoming tour of the county.
In St. Petersburg I marveled at the Dali Museum, USF’s Bayboro Campus, and the odd inverted pyramid of the Pier. I looked forward to attending productions at American Stage Theatre and made a mental note to visit Florida Craftsmen Gallery.
Heading back to Clearwater, I drove up Beach Boulevard, happy to see that at least the Gulf Beaches were much the same as remembered. Crossing Memorial Causeway from Clearwater Beach, I noticed an expanded Coachman Park, where Clearwater Jazz Holiday was already making a name for itself. Turning right on the mainland, I followed Pierce St. up the bluff, past an old white mansion overlooking the Harbor. A sign on the front proclaimed Pinellas County Arts Council. Had the county grown enough in sophistication to warrant its own arts council?
My reluctant return to Florida would soon provide opportunities for my own changes. Out of work and running out of money, I longed for a different creative direction, one where I had only to please myself and not others. After too many dead-end ideas and the approach of insolvency, an image of the mansion on the bluff popped into my head. I decided to visit the Arts Council.
Thus began my long association and appreciation of the Pinellas County Arts Council. Over the years, I’ve come to realize the value of an organization that works closely with governmental entities, artists, and the public to support and advance the arts. Through its various programs, the Arts Council provides funding, education, business seminars, arts advocacy and public art programs. Pinellas County is a richer more vibrant cultural destination because of it.
I can say without exaggeration that my own career as an artist has benefitted from Arts Council opportunities. On my first visit in 1984 I received much needed encouragement to stop punching time clocks and let the artist out. Twenty-six years later, the Arts Council continues to offer encouragement to myself and the arts community. Who needs the Arts Council? We all do.