Thirsty Thursday: St. Pete’s Warehouse Arts District

Would you like to discover a woman’s favourite fantasy? Thanks to St. Peterburg’s passion for the arts you can point your peepers, ears and even taste buds towards the Warehouse Arts District on March 14 for the Femme Fantasy Festival, an event designed to draw attention to the creative explosion going on south of Central.   Piggybacking on the 15 year old Second Saturday Artwalk tradition started by the Downtown Arts Association (now called the Arts Association of St. Petersburg) the Warehouse Arts District not only sells art, but as their slogan goes, It’s Where Art Is Made!

Once a downtrodden and forgotten industrial corner of St. Petersburg, the Warehouse Arts District is nestled behind the Dome, and includes a wide variety of studio spaces where artists do their work for visitors to observe.   Do you want to see actual glass-blowing?  How about watching a painter bring enlightenment to pigments and canvas.  Inspiration flows like craft beer, another artform taking root in the Warehouse Arts District, along with sculpture, pottery, painting, glass blowing, woodworking, music, theater and every imaginable media manipulation – all in plain view.

But the Warehouse Arts District is more than just a geographical area.  In addition to encouraging the development of a part of the city for artists to work (and where many also live) the organization also helps to promote member artists through social media, assists new artists in finding workspace, organizes events to spotlight artists and draw in patrons, and even works to interact with the city to improve street lighting and establish codes.

In fact, the Warehouse Arts District was established only two years ago by Mark Aeling, Duncan McClellan, Sal St. Germain and Tracey Kennard partly because there were no proper zoning regulations for the business of making art.  For example, quips  Aeling, there were no rules about pottery kilns – the closest thing they had on the books were pizza ovens!  Obviously, as St. Petersburg grows into a city not only for viewing and purchasing art, but also for the creation of art, lines of communication needed to be established between the artistic businessmen and rulemaking authorities.

So the Warehouse Arts District is a bit like a neighborhood association, worried about sidewalks and other decidedly pedestrian concerns; it is a bit like a business guild, with members who produce or purchase artwork; and it is a bit like an artist colony, with a cacophony of self-expression radiating from so many repurposed warehouses.

Because Second Saturday was already drawing many arts patrons out to Central Avenue, the Warehouse District members pooled their resources to rent a Trolley to shuttle people for free to see even more new galleries and especially to show off the workspace and demonstrate process.  In fact, there is more studio than gallery in these places.  Zen Glass Studio has a huge facility, large enough to host the Florida Flame Off competition with live music and food trucks Feb 28-March 2. Robert Mickelsen judges contestants from across the state blowing glass for all to see.

But if you missed that, there is another even larger event coming up March 14.  The aforementioned  Femme Fantasy which will benefit the Warehouse Arts District.  All female artists such as surrealist painter Emily Miller (Who says her fantasy is “to rule the world!”) will present their “depictions of the female fantasy” at this juried art show. A 1500 square feet gallery space called Softwater Studio (formerly a laundry facility) will showcase the artwork while food is served by Maggie on the Move and other female-owned food trucks.  Even the live music is by Kasondra Rose and ladies will be on hand to do henna painting and tarot card readings.  There will even be performances by acrobat Marla Mae, fire dancers and living art displayed on painted bodies.  This event is organized along with  Keep St. Pete Local & The Grand Central District Association.

While the Saturday trolley stops at various individual venues every month, shows like Femme Fantasy and the Florida Flame Off bring several artists together in one location. An even bigger show will feature the artwork of many Arts Districts members in May at Station #3, a renovated fire station on 5th.

With glass blowers, beer brewers and even the St. Petersburg Opera joining the organization, the Warehouse Arts District has become an important new player in the local arts scene and has a significant role in helping to further establish St. Petersburg as a City of the Arts. President Mark Aeling says the Warehouse Arts District is the perfect “second day” activity for visitors. After “dilly dallying” at the Dali and perusing the Chilhuli and taking a stroll down central, now tourists can actually see how the art is made and maybe buy a piece right there from the glass blower.    In past months St Pete Arts Alliance & St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce have sponsored the trolley and in March the Courtyard Mariott is lending support to keep the loop going. But April is open for any arts partron that would like to help keep the trolley rolling.

Find out more about upcoming shows and where the trolley stops on the Second Saturday at