Lakeland, one of Florida’s hidden gems

 

In just under an hour drive from Tampa, Lakeland is a city that is worth a daytime visit. The city is known for Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, an affinity for swans and an abundance of lakes.

 

Lake Mirror, downtown Lakeland. Photo by Emily McCain

The swans in Lakeland serve as unofficial mascots. You can find them as statues, in the city logo and at almost any of the city’s 38 lakes. But what most people don’t know is that the swans are local royalty.

Sleeping swan at Lake Morton. Photo by Emily McCain

In the 50s, the local swan population slowly disappeared. When two former residents heard about the swans’ disappearance, they appealed to the Queen of England for help.

Queen Elizabeth agreed to donate two swans from the royal flock living on the River Thames. She only asked that the city pays for the crating and shipping costs. $300 later, two white mute swans were on their way to Lakeland.

Today decedents of those swans can be found all around the town. One place you can visit to see them is Lake Mirror, right in the heart of downtown.

Lake Mirror is a popular place to hold events, weddings and just enjoy a nice walk. The lake is surrounded by the historic Francis Langford Promenade. The promenade is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The cobblestone promenade is named after Francis Langford, an actress and singer from Lakeland. The walk along the promenade is about a mile. It includes the community theater, a children’s park, a garden bistro and a lakefront botanical garden.

If you really want to interact with the swans, make the short walk from Lake Mirror to Lake Morton. This lake is where most of the swans can be found and where most people go to feed them.

Make sure you bring some change with you because around the lake you’ll come across a few swan feed dispensers. The city installed the dispensers to help manage what the swans are fed.

Many people like to bring white bread to feed the swans but it can be harmful to the birds in large amounts. If you don’t have change for the dispensers, you can bring things like lettuce, spinach and whole oats.

If you’re coming to town on a Saturday, start your day at the curbside farmers market. It stretches through downtown right alongside local restaurants and coffee shops.

Mitchell’s Coffee House is just a step away from the market. They’ve been serving gourmet coffee and pastries in town for two decades. You can even bring in your own mug and they’ll hold on to it for your next visit.

If you’re looking for a more eclectic atmosphere, then stop by 801 E Main. Named for its physical address, this open-air café was once a gas station. The marketplace features three distinct brands inside.

You can visit The Poor Porker food truck, where you can get coffee and beignets. You can sit outside to eat or head inside toward the Bar Calexico.

Strawberry Chocolate Beignet from The Poor Porker. Photo by Emily McCain

The bar serves local beer and specialty drinks and acts as a live music venue. While inside you can also stop in at Bearcat and Big Six trading post.

For more drinks, you can head down to Cob and Pen. The gastropub’s name comes from the local royals. A male swan is called a cob and a female is called a pen. The pub offers 16 rotating drafts and over 200 bottled beers.

Cob and Pen Gastropub. Photo by Emily McCain

The pub offers a one of a kind atmosphere. Housed in a historic Tudor home, it offers high ceilings, bay windows and a large outdoor space for lawn games.

Before leaving, make sure you stop by Florida Southern College. The college is the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world. You can tour it yourself or sign up for one of the daily tours offered by the college.

Tampa welcomes Bay Area Renaissance Festival

Hear ye, hear ye. The Renaissance Festival has officially made its way back to the Bay Area. This year, the festival is celebrating 39 years of existence. What started as a small get-together of Renaissance style partying and contests, evolved into what is loved by many today.

The festival opened its gates Feb. 10 and will continue to run through March 25. Operating hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every weekend, including Festival Friday on March 23. It’s located next to the Museum of Science and Industry and directly across USF.

It features 12 stages of various comedic Renaissance-themed shows, arts and crafts, roaming musicians and food that reflects both traditional and modern times.

Kiersten Lyons, a festival employee who has traveled with them for many years, expressed her excitement over the event.

“I absolutely love the fun freedom of all the different walks of life that come through here,” she said. “Anybody from the U.S. to the U.K. comes here. It’s an amazing event.”

Entertaining festival-goers this “statue” stays on his podium for most of the day. Photo taken by Yara Zayas.

Once you enter, you are immediately transported back in time. Everywhere you look you can see people dressed in Renaissance attire, speaking phrases like “huzzah” or “good morrow” and you may even see someone who will address themselves with a title of nobility, such as Lord or Lady.

“You got to get here! It’s awesome, it’s amazing to celebrate your heritage and your history,” said Lyons.

The gates have opened. #timetraveler #bayarearenfest

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The event also features several activities that kids and adults will enjoy.

You can practice your ax throwing, try your hand at archery, ride a camel, test out your strength with a hammer game and do some bungee jumping. Also, if you know where to look, you’ll even find a mermaid cove or get a chance to have a photo taken with a unicorn.

“The mud show’s great, the jousting’s great, and they have a human chessboard,” said Lyons. “It’s absolutely wonderful. You get the best of everything around here.”

Lyons also made sure to mention how many of the people who put shows together make their living that way.

“The shows are definitely a great experience,” she said.

Festival-goers can also enjoy the shops that can be found throughout the grounds. You can find items such as swords, magic wands, hand-made mugs and art pieces from local artists all up for purchase. Prices vary with each vendor.

Most vendors and food booths accept credit and debit cards. However, you should always bring some cash. For convenience, there are ATMs available throughout the park.

The event offers seven differently themed weekends such as Pirates & Pets, Time Travelers, Shamrocks & Shenanigans, and Barbarian Brew Fest.

Travel back in time to the 16th century by visiting the Bay Area Renaissance Festival! With 12 stages of live…

Posted by Yara Zayas on Wednesday, March 7, 2018

If you’re interested in attending, tickets vary in price. Adult tickets are about $22, students with a valid ID can get in for about $18, and tickets for kids cost about $14. They also offer a military discount with proper identification.

Parking is always free for attendees, courtesy of MOSI.

Pets are also allowed inside the park after terms and conditions are met.

For more information visit the Bay Area Renaissance Festival site at http://www.bayarearenfest.com/.

Create wonderfully unique pottery at You Do the Dishes

At You Do the Dishes, guests can enjoy an array of specialty, well-made coffees while painting their potter. Photo by Sam Turke

With a cozy coffeehouse alongside an array of pottery waited to be made one’s own, at You Do the Dishes everyone can come make something that just won’t be found anywhere else.

 

The paint-your-own-pottery studio allows guests to choose any piece of pottery in the shop and hand paint it. One can find most anything from coffee mugs, to dinnerware, to animals.

The simple five step process makes things easier for everyone involved.

  1. Choose a piece
  2. Choose from a wide variety of colors
  3. Paint the piece
  4. Leave it at the studio to be glazed and fired
  5. Come back in a few days to pick up the finished product

With weekly specials running seven days a week, there is no reason not to take part in this wonderful experience. Nothing happening on a Monday? Bring the family for Family Night and enjoy a $6 flat rate per person from 7-10 p.m. During the Saturday night Friends Night special, paint for just $4/hour from 5 p.m. to close. On College Night, any student with their college ID can paint for just $6/hour from 7-10 p.m.

“We love coming to You Do the Dishes because of its practicality,” said Corie Tregoe, mother and wife. “Our first time here my husband painted a dinner plate that we still serve on two years later. We even use a bowl we painted for our dog.”

 

And not only is You Do the Dishes a pottery studio, but it is also a full-service coffee house. They serve locally roasted Buddy Brew coffee in a house brew, latte, iced latte, cappuccino, double shot of espresso and americano. They also have 11 flavors, including vanilla, chocolate, caramel, Irish cream and cinnamon. It does not stop there though. They also offer hot and cold teas, smoothies, milkshakes and more.

“This is one of my go-to study places,” said student Amber Norden. “Not only is the atmosphere so relaxing, but they offer the best vanilla lattes.”

Photo by Sam Turke

Anyone can come to study, or anyone can plan a one-of-a-kind date at You Do the Dishes.

“I actually came here on my second date with my current girlfriend,” Elijah Hudnell said. “She painted a cat to look just like mine. That same cat knocked it off of my desk and broke it. I felt horrible at first, but we look back and laugh about it now – the irony.”

The possibilities are endless. To follow all the updates on specials and get more information, You Do the Dishes is on Facebook and Instagram. Its website is www.youdothedishes.com. Its phone number is 813-975-1700, and they are located at 15357 Amberly Drive, Tampa, FL, 33647.

Bean Garden brings new art to St. Pete

The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg unveiled a new interactive installation last month called “The Bean Garden.”

Sitting in the center of the Atchison gallery is what appears to be a sand box.  The Bean Garden is filled with 2,500 pounds of dried great northern beans surrounded in a frame of solid juniper. It took about six museum employees to pour in all of the beans.

This interactive piece was created by Allison Knowles as part of the Fluxus movement, a period of art history that the museum hasn’t addressed before. According to MFA Curator Katherine Pill, it’s exciting for the museum to be able to fill in the gap of art history to showcase an incredible female performance artist.

“It is so cool to be able to feature a woman artist, it brings a lot to this museum,” Pill said.

The Bean Garden encapsulates a lot of the ideas of the Fluxus movement.  It is uniquely situated at MFA where usually you are not allowed to touch the artwork. Fluxus asks: who deems art? It says art is for everyone,  it should be treated as such. Employees expressed that it is an interesting statement to be exploring at the museum.

MFA borrowed this exhibit from a gallery in South Florida. According to Pill, the curator of the museum, Jade Dellinger, is an incredible source for Fluxus art.

“For Allison Knowles the artist, she was interested in the nourishment and the comfort that comes from food and its ability to bring people together.” Pill said.

Guests are invited to take off their shoes, put on the socks provided and then enter the installation, with  three people allowed to enter at a time. There is a sound box at the bottom of the Bean Garden. When you walk in it, it amplifies the sound made, casting a loud crunching sound that some find entertaining. 

Employees at the museum hope that there’s even a sense of camaraderie that comes over someone when they enter the exhibit. The Bean Garden was created to showcase an important message of art, but to also be a release of energy. When people enter the Bean Garden it brings them back to a “child-like” state. This was the artist’s intentions. The artists thought it was important for people to relax and have fun. She stressed that if you can combine the beauty of art and create a fun aspect then you have completed your mission.

Student explores hijabi stories through art

From the outside, Sara Filali looks like a normal college student – but once she breaks out her pad and pencil, everything changes.

At 20 years old, Filali is already a self-taught artist and successful businesswoman. Her self-owned business, Filali Studios, gives her a platform to sell her art in various forms such as prints, stickers and phone cases. She also accepts requests for commissioned art, which has included being a live painter at a friend’s wedding.

Filali makes art because she enjoys it. Selling it is only a perk, she says.

“I like doing it,” says Filali. “This is something that me, a broke college kid, can do in my spare time. Which combines what I really like doing and also what I really need – which is money.”

At the beginning of her business journey, Filali was afraid.

“I had to put a value on the art that I was originally just making for myself,” said Filali. “I was afraid that the person I was offering my price to would reject it, and therefore reject the value that I was putting in my own art.”

Hailing from Morocco, Filali feels a deep connection to her ethnicity, which she shows in her art. Various symbols that are prevalent throughout Morocco’s history show up in her pieces. Although she didn’t grow up there, her drawings take on the aspects of a culture she was raised in, inspired by the stories told to her by her parents and grandmother.

“Growing up, my culture has always been a big part of my identity – it’s a part of who I am, my language, my roots.”

Some of her pieces are illustrations of stories she grew up hearing. Others embody the strong features of Moroccan women.

“I value my roots being seen – especially living in the USA, where Moroccan culture is not very prominent,” said Filali. “You don’t see a lot of art that reflects the other side without using orientalism.”

Beyond showcasing her culture, Filali is very passionate about representation in her works. A lot of her pieces depict women like herself who wear a hijab, which is a religious headscarf. She says this is not only to represent hijabis in her art, but also because she wants to explore different mediums with hijabis as the subject.

Sara Filali with one of her paintings featuring a woman wearing a hijab. Photo by Rayan Alnajar.

“I thought, ‘What if I were to mix pop art with hijab?’ Or, ‘What if I were to mix expressionism with hijab, or collage art?’” said Filali. “The hijabi woman is not a huge subject of art or analysis, it’s always something that’s feared or othered and not very celebrated within the world of art.”

In an effort to change that, Filali has created art featuring hijabis. She has helped solidify her place in cultural art by portraying underrepresented women.

“It’s not so much doing art that I think other people would find cool, it’s more so me, as the individual, what kind of art do I want to see?” Filali says.

To view her pieces, follow her Instagram @sara_filali . To buy her pieces, visit her website www.filalistudios.com.

USF student organizes International Holocaust Remembrance Day concert

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is held annually on Jan. 27. The day marks the anniversary of the liberation of millions of Jews from Auschwitz. It is a day to remember those who died unjustly by Nazi forces and celebrate those who survived.

This year, the University of South Florida commemorated this day by holding a concert in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Zachary Konick is a second-year music composition graduate student at USF. He is also the organizer of the concert. His Jewish heritage remains a catalyst in his wish to give back to the Jewish community.

“I haven’t always been too involved in my Jewish background, unfortunately. I go to temple for service, here and there, but I haven’t been as involved as I might have wanted to be,” said Konick. “Doing this was kind of a way to get back into my Jewish heritage a little bit more. To reconnect with this a little bit more.”

Konick, as a composer, wanted to bring a piece of his art to the stage. His piece “Kaddish” is derived from “The Mourner’s Kaddish,” a Jewish prayer that talks about death.

Throughout the composition, a juxtaposition of the Israeli national anthem and his grandmother Rosette’s voice can be heard. These elements enhance the musical value of the piece and solidify Konick’s desire to honor his grandma.

“I wanted to give something to my nana, who is a Holocaust survivor. I wanted to give something to her before she leaves from this planet,” said Konick. “My piece is dedicated to her for that reason.”

Screen Shot 2018-02-16 at 8.11.53 PM.png
USF graduate student Zachary Konick composed the piece “Kaddish” which was derived from the Jewish prayer, “The Mourner’s Kaddish.” Photo by Maria Laura Lugo.

Francis Schwartz is the featured composer for the concert. He is a Sarasota resident who graces the world with his “music theater” compositions, as he likes to describe his music.

Invited artists are performing four of his original compositions during the concert. These include “On the State of Children,” “Auschwitz,” “Caligula” and “The Grey Road.” Schwartz considers his music a way to combat injustice around the world.

“I’m very much aware of injustice being practiced all over the world. Discrimination, hatred. This is something that I have combatted ever since I was a little boy. Ever since I was old enough to be conscious of the fact that people hate each other and discriminate against each other for reasons of race, ethnic origin, color or sexual orientation,” said Schwartz. “It’s a very complex thing. We are masters of hate. I try through my music to unravel that very tightly knit ball of hate.”

The compositions are brought to life with the dynamism of the dancers. Carolina Garcia Zerpa and Itarah Godbolt are two of the dancers invited to grace the stage of the concert. Despite not having direct Jewish connections, they consider it important to use their art to bring awareness to events like these.

“Anyway that I can use my instrument, my body, my art form of dance to add expression or bring awareness, add another dimension or dynamic to another artist’s work and what they’re doing. That is my connection. I’m always willing and wanting to do that,” said Godbolt. “We’re also not just artists. We are people and we are activists and we have experiences. There are many ways to express that through art. When you bring all of that together is just magnifies and brings back to life another way to share those experiences”

In light of the recent events around the world, Konick considers that this concert signifies a way to unify cultures and ethnicities.

“This concert isn’t just about Jewish heritage. It’s really important to me that this concert is about unity as well, given all the tensions politically and socially in the US lately and throughout the world,” said Konick. “We really want to strike home that this concert is about coming together and fighting about persecution of any kind”

Museum in St. Petersburg honors black excellence

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum is an excellent place to learn about the Father of Black History Month, as well as the African-American culture in the Bay area.

“We here at the Dr. Carter G Woodson African American History Museum take delight in not only preserving, presenting but interpreting African American history,” said Terri Lipsey Scott, executive director of the museum. “We celebrate the contributions of those past, but more importantly those of our community of current.”

The museum features bits of information about Woodson, but a fact not in the museum is that Woodson was selected as the doodle for Google.

Scott continued by saying, “His popularity is growing, particularly with this generation.”

“It wasn’t until 1976 that we begin celebrating Black History Month as a result of him introducing in 1926, the study of Negro History Week,” Scott said.

The Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum is the only museum in St.Petersburg dedicated to African-American history.

According to Scott, what makes this museum different than others is its prime location.

“We’re the only museum that does not sit on sit on the pristine waterfront, but that’s nestled in a community where the rich history was in fact cultivated,” Scott said.

The museum is free to the public, but the staff kindly accepts donations.

“We take pride in being able to showcase the talented work of so many artists throughout the Bay area and beyond,” Scott said.

“The Dr. Carter G Woodson African American History Museum, in fact, hosts every six to eight weeks a new exhibit. Because of the limited space that we have here,” Scott continued, “We are prideful in order to just showcase the talented art of African American artists who have never been seen or shown anywhere else, locally, nationally, or internationally and beyond.”

Many art pieces do not get the opportunity to be showcased and are often stored away in garages. The museum provides a forum for artists to get a chance to display their art.

On Feb. 1, St. Petersburg’s City Hall held a flag ceremony honoring the Woodson flag. The flag was raised at 10 a.m., marking the beginning of Black History Month. Across the nation, the city of St. Petersburg is the only place that raises the Woodson flag on a government entity.

The museum also hosts a number of activities, such as book clubs and piano lessons.

“We’re the home of the One City Chorus,” Scott said, “Who practice here every week, and they sing songs of the Civil Rights Movement.”

In addition to the One City Chorus, the museum partners with The Florida Orchestra. Once a month, from January through April, the museum hosts one of their segments.

Previously, the grounds of the museum were the Jordan Park community. In the early 2000s, the space was renovated. Behind the museum is a Legacy Garden. It features bricks with donors’ names on them. The garden is an ongoing fundraiser for the museum.

Scott is, “Delighted that folks are embracing not only the culture of African American history, but looking back, and recognizing and in fact celebrating the individual who in fact brought it to the forefront.”

Food, Music, Living

 

The inaugural seafood and music festival took place on March 25 and March 26, mimicking those held in the surrounding areas of Sarasota as well as Siesta Beach.

The committee that dedicated months to plan this event while using those events in Sarasota and Siesta Beach as inspiration, is called St. Petersburg Arts Alliance. The executive director of the Arts Alliance in St. Petersburg is John Collins.

“We are the umbrella organization for all of the arts in St Petersburg,” Collins said. “So that covers fine arts, performing arts, like music, and of course today fusion arts, if you will, the culinary arts.”

Collins helped bring the event to St. Petersburg and has hope that it will become an annual tradition.

The food at the festival ranged from different types of cooked fish, crab cakes, shrimp, lobster, Paella, crawfish, french fries and seafood jambalaya. The festival also included vendors that sold natural juices and even different types of art.

One individual that is working very closely with a vendor was very excited about the festival’s first time appearance. Bruno Baldrati, a Brazilian native, believes the food his tent is selling is very closely aligned with food from his home due to seasoning and the way the food is cooked.

“It’s good because we meet a lot of new people, a lot of families come here with their kids,to eat [at] the seafood festival and its good because I acquire some experiences from that,” Baldrati said.

The festival will be returning the following year in 2018. The next seafood and music festival will be held in Siesta Beach Dec. 2 and Dec. 3.

 

The Tampa Museum Features Who Shot Sports

The Tampa Museum of Art holds a special exhibition each moth that is dedicated to a unique topic. This month it’s Sports.

Who Shot Sports is a nine-section exhibition that contains over 200 sports photography. Each photograph included in the exhibition is accompanied by the history of the photographer behind the lens. Joanna Robotham, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, says that Who Shot Sports pays homage to the creative memories captured through the photo lens.

“It looks at not just the famous moments in art history but looks at who the photographers are beyond the screen. The whole premise behind Who Shot Sports is to give the photographers recognition and identity. Many people know the famous photographs but they don’t know who took it,” said Robotham.

The Tampa Bay area is a city that encompasses many sports teams and media outlets. Robotham and the Tampa Museum of Art decided to include Lens of Tampa Bay Sports, in order to showcase the sports versatility that the city holds.

“We worked with eight different photographers and pulled about fifty photographs of local sports teams and included that in a smaller show. So, it’s a nice companion to the larger show,”said Robotham.

The overall functionality of photography allows for individuals to emerge creativity with reality. Tatyannah George, a student photographer, says that her passion is driven by the ability to capture the beauty of the moment.

“As a student photography I would say that being able to capture everyday lives for people outside of events or things of that nature is a beautiful thing because you are able to give that moment or experience outside of actually being there,” said George.

Who Shot Sports can be viewed until April 30th.

Veteran Art Exhibit on Display at Tampa’s Riverwalk

 

Saori Murphy and Larry Busby had their work chosen for display outside the Straz Center as part of the Veterans Art Exhibit: Reintegration and Resilience.

“Being around the Straz and having people see that – there is a little bit of vulnerability that you kind of feel vulnerable that people see parts of yourselves,” said Murphy. “But at the same time I’m feeling really honored and respected in a way that people had come up and approached me along with other veterans.” 

Murphy’s favorite piece of artwork currently on display is called A Choice. It began as a black and white exhibit that, over time, was filled with beautiful colors which represented her emotional transformation.

“What was my inspiration for making art? Suicide. I am a suicide survivor,” said Busby. “I started getting the help I need because I was suffering from severe depression and alcoholism. That started my journey.”

After seeking help for his depression, it was suggested that Busby choose a hobby. So, he picked up his camera 30 years after being a former Navy photographer’s aid.

“I’m in a zen-like state,” said. Busby. “I’m focused on what I’m doing and the rest of the world just disappears. It just melts away and I kind of like that. It’s meditation. It’s therapy. It’s cool.”

Both Busby and Murphy see the importance in seeking help and want others to do the same. Their artwork is on display for free at the Riverwalk in Downtown Tampa until March 15th.

 

Rocking the Curtis Hixon Park

 

Since 2010, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park has held a “Rock the Park” monthly concert series that invites local bands, up-and-coming artists and vendors to come together and spend a relaxing evening with the community.

Held in the evenings on the first Thursday of every month, guests can sit in the amphitheater and enjoy the free and dog-friendly event with half a dozen decorated pop-up shops and local ska, alternative, or rock bands who hope to gain exposure.

First-time performer Shane Schuck, whose stage name is Pajamas, was thrilled to be able to play a set for his friends and new fans right in his own backyard.

“My buddy, Joe, does some of the promoting here,” the Clearwater resident said. “He just offered it to me a couple months back and it sounded like an awesome opportunity.”

One new business in particular was extremely excited to promote their brand at the concert. “Whatever Pops,” an ice pop-stand-turned-storefront, was selling organic ice pops to the audience.

“The Popsicles have natural ingredients with no added sugar,” employee Anthony Licary said. “Even the ingredients like the teas and fruit are locally grown in Tampa.”

Anyone who is interested in attending the event, booking a performance slot, or becoming a vendor can find more information on the Rock the Park Facebook page, or on their website  http://www.rocktheparktampa.com.

 

Local Artists Sells Artwork Antique Comics at Curtis Hixon Park

Around the holidays at Curtis Hixon Park in Downtown Tampa, it can be difficult to go shopping when the seasonal ice skating rink is only there for a limited time.

But the shops at Curtis Hixon’s Winter Village are an attraction not to be overlooked. Toward the back of the shops, a stall filled with comic books resides with an owner that has a story to tell.

Tim Gibbons, shop owner, lit up while talking about the items he was selling.

“I bought the very first Fantastic Four. I’ve had a lot of #1 Marvels. I was a DC collector from ’59, Marvel didn’t come around until ’62. So, from ’59 to ’62 I was a DC collector,” Gibbons said.

While his wares were collectibles, his heart belongs to the art. He pulled out several pieces he created that he was also selling. They included album covers that depicted of Darth Vader conducting an orchestra and playing the tuba in a marching bad.

“Right now, I do serious art. I teach over at Hyde Park Art Studio Life Enrichment Center,” Gibbons said

The artistic style of comic books are a specific inspiration of Gibbons’ art.

“It’s just absolutely gorgeous. And it turned me onto art, that’s what got me going with everything, is comic books,” Gibbons said.

Tim Gibbons will only be out for two more days, be sure to check out his collection while his shop still resides at Curtis Hixon’s Winter Village.

Defying The Odds

When trying to push past your limits, a lot of people say they do not want to hear excuses. That is where the catch phrase “no excuses, no limits” came into play for Luca Patuelli.

Patuelli was diagnosed with arthrogryposis, a disease that limits muscle growth in certain parts of the body. For Patuelli, it took a toll mostly on his legs.

“My dream is to be able to walk,” says Patuelli.

Through hard work and perseverance, he is slowly realizing that dream. Patuelli participated in a 2.5K walk and finished. The amazing part: he did not use his crutches.

Patuelli now travels all over speaking to groups of people to push his message of positivism and encouragement. He wants people to believe in themselves and realize they can do whatever they want— all it takes is confidence.

 

Siesta Key Crystal Classic Draws International Sand Sculptors To Sarasota

Siesta Key, located in Sarasota, Florida, gathered sand sculptors from Canada, Texas, the Netherlands and all around the world. The event began on Veterans Day, giving the sand sculptors three days to carve.

Canadian Delayne Corbett has been sand sculpting for over 10 years.

“I got into sculpting sand because of a passion for sculpture,” Delayne said.  “I’ve been carving stone for over 25 years; sand is nothing but a bunch of little pieces of stone, so it was pretty natural for me to jump into sand sculpting.”

Spectators believe sculptors use glue-like substances to keep the sand intact. However, according to Delayne, all they use is a lot of water and sand to build the form they desire.

“We basically have to make a birthday cake of sand,”Delayne said.

McKenzie Lee traveled from Venice, Florida to see the sculptures. “I thought they were awesome there is so much detail and I think it is crazy that they can make all of these sculptures out of sand,” Lee said.

This event draws thousands of people to an art gallery with a beautiful view. The purpose is to raise money for endangered sea turtles through the Mote Marine Aquarium. This year marks the seventh year in a row of a successful Siesta Key Crystal Classic.

 

WMNF Bridges the Gap

 

The WMNF radio station hosted its third Bridging the Gap series. The series was a fundraiser that included five poets and five rappers from the Tampa Bay area.

Xavier “Cool Kid” Grullon, a 22-year-old slam poet, was excited to perform at the show.

 “I think we’re creative in two different outlets, but I think we should be able to come together and share the same stage,” Grunion said when asked what “bridging the gap” meant to him.

Mike Mass, a rapper in the Tampa Bay hip hop community was also excited about the series.

 “There’s a shared interest between those two crowds and the consumers of those two crowds,” Mass said, 

Bridging the Gap is a semi-annual event designed to raise money for WMNF, a radio station run almost entirely on donations and volunteers. The radio event was aired on Saturday evening, and is available for download on the station’s website.

The event itself was not a competitive one. It was used primarily to bring the audiences of the Saturday night shows together. The ten performers were given roughly ten minutes each, or the equivalent of a set on a local stage. The show aired from 11 P.M. Saturday night to early Sunday morning around 1 A.M..

Experience St. Pete Through Dance

St. Pete Festival helps to build the city’s reputation as a harbor for the arts and celebrates local artists and their creations with 57 dedicated events ever weekend through September

On Sept. 17 a series of curated dance performances took the streets of downtown St. Petersburg. It was part of Our Town: A Moving Dance Tour of St. Pete, an original art installation directed by USF assistant professor of dance Andee Scott. Scott has wanted to create a piece of moving public art for some time now.

“I think it’s just fun to think of the audience as part of the performance,” said Scott.

The project received an overwhelming amount of support by all those who joined the tour and even those who chose to stay on the sidelines. Dozens of members of the community attended the event to discover something new about their city. Scott, together with the St. Pete Dance Alliance and Dance Linkages, are already in the process of putting together an even bigger art installation.

The audience traveled through the streets of downtown from one performance to the next and experienced historic sites in a new way. Dancers and performers from around the Bay Area were invited to participate in the event. Alex Jones, a choreographer from Collective Dance Soles Company, directed one of the seven performances of the evening.

“It was really nice to be asked to be a part of something so awesome,” said Jones.

 

Vegan Food Catering Business Embraces Education, Wellness

Yourhighness Tafari has been a vegan and Puritarian since 1998, which was a decision that motivated him in helping people improve their quality of health in the consumption choices they make.  Tafari’s devotion to spiritual purity, and food education soon became his life’s work.

In 2014, Tafari and co-owner Erica Cobb started the delivery/catering business The Vegg’d Out Vegan Kitchen in the Wesley Chapel/Tampa area. Over the past two years, the business has made a commitment to provide cleaner eating at an affordable rate while using precision in their vegan cuisines to benefit people mentally and spiritually.

Vegg’d Out Vegan Kitchen caters all local events, as well as appearances in all of the open air eateries in Hillsborough County.

The business concept arose when both Tafari and Negus traveled to New Orleans to do volunteer assistance with victims of Hurricane Katrina. Negus had already obtained a culinary degree from the University of Texas, and at that point, was not using it.

Tafari and Negus found the experience to be valuable and applicable to a business idea, which led to the creation of The Vegg’d Out Vegan Kitchen.

These two business owners specialize in all organic, non-meat food preparation.  Both owners show a passion for the work that they do, as well as passing on their culinary expertise to their children and youth of the community.

Tikur Negus, a chef from the Vegg’d Out Vegan Kitchen, said making quality vegan food and teaching people the benefits of vegan meals is important when representing the business.

“Our focus is on health, vision, and wealth,” Negus said.  “So we educate the people on the better ways of living, while providing food for them to show that vegan food is good for everybody.”

Tafari has been a lifelong Tampa resident. He can be reached through Vegg’d Out Vegan Kitchen on Facebook, as well as the “SourceTalk Saturday” monthly community events at the Tampa Community Center on 22nd Ave and Fletcher Ave.

The kitchen can be found on social media, as well as a monthly appearance at the Tampa Community Center. They offer monthly trainings for kids under 10 years of age.

Social Media helps small business thrive

Local business owner Dee Laskowski is using technology to her advantage. She advertises her business products through social media sites including Facebook, Instagram and Etsy.

Laskowski and her husband own a small craft business called We Sell Sea Shells and More. She crotchets mermaid dolls in the comfort of her own home.

“I crochet the head and the body and I do it in custom colors so people can order whatever colors they would like,” Laskowski said.

Each mermaid doll costs about $45 depending on how customized the purchaser wants it to be. A lot of hard work goes into making the dolls and it takes an average of three days to make one.

“It takes about two hours to cut the yarn and put it on the doll’s head,” crafter Liana Laskowski said.

Laskowski advertises her business on social media sites including Facebook and Instagram. Recently she created a business account on Etsy, a popular crafting website.

“It seems like a lot of small businesses, craft businesses and baking businesses are using social media sites in this manner and getting orders that way,” Laskowski said, “there’s generally a website associated with the account where they can click on the link and go to that account to make purchases.”

Social media has become a prevalent part of today’s society. With Apple’s recent release of the iPhone 7, technology continues to change our everyday lives.

Singing for Shriners Reaches New Heights, Hospital Shows Appreciation

In 2012, the University of South Florida chapter of the Theta Chi fraternity had a wonderful idea for a philanthropy event that would provide fundraising for a worthwhile cause. The event would also intend to provide incredible entertainment for all involved. Theta Chi focused on the local community and realized that they could help bring funding and awareness to the Shriners Hospitals for Children-Tampa located on USF’s campus.

Groups, primarily from the Greek community, collaborate in order to select two songs to be performed on the day of the event. This year, the concert had the most registered groups ever, with 10 female performances and 5 male performances competing for the title of champions.

So where does the fundraising come in? That process begins months before the actual day of the event. Each group contributes a registration fee and is expected to make an effort to raise funds from the USF community by encouraging t-shirt and ticket sales. The higher the funds raised, more points are added to the overall performance scores at Singing for Shriners.

When performance day came along, the Theta Chi brothers experienced an unexpected dilemma, as the audience reached maximum capacity in the theatre. Of all the problems that they could have faced this was a welcome one.

Jessica Hill, the Public Relations Specialist at Shriners-Tampa, was front and center for the show, even speaking on behalf of the hospital to the crowd.

“It means so much to have the support”, she said. “Theta Chi, in doing this, is helping to send love to the rescue for so many kids in our area.”

USF student Ally Lindsay has been attending the event for several years and she said that although it’s always nice to have a night full of entertainment, having representatives from the Hospital in attendance, “It'[s] a very important part of the event because you can see these people and see where all the money that everyone’s raising is going to.”

The performances didn’t disappoint and the crowd was enthralled from beginning to end. Perhaps the best part of the evening was finishing off the event with Theta Chi handing over a check to Shriner’s Hospital for $11,000.

Corolla Turned “Truckolla”

There are many reasons people in the United States love trucks.  They are great for driving off-road, hauling trailers and managing fuel economy.  Trucks are the kind of vehicle that can turn boys into men in a heartbeat.  However, can a car be like a truck or at least look like one?

“Turning cars into trucks can happen,” said Nikola Vlacic, a graduate from the University of South Florida.

On Feb. 26, with the help of his friends, he proved this to be true.  The car that Vlacic chose to get the job done was his beloved 2001 Toyota Corolla.  As a result, the car went from Corolla to “Truckolla” in a 12-hour conversion.  Sit back, relax and see the all new 2016 Toyota “Truckolla” come to life.