St. Pete's art scene has evolved, and in the process changed the city for the better. At the forefront of this movement are the residents of St. Pete who are forming groups, photographing the mural and street art, starting book clubs and pushing support for our local indie markets and makers.
One organization has worked assiduously to promote the literary arts in the Burg. Keep St. Pete Lit, only a couple of years old, hosts a monthly book club at the MFA (next one is Friday, June 26), pairs wine with literature at various venues, worked with residents to create public installations (i.e. Love Letter to St. Pete), created an art show that paired visual, written and performance art and most recently helped in the execution of a fiction contest for Creative Loafing.
The non-profit's resolve to imbue the Burg with the sweet serenity and power of words is inexhaustible. Keep St. Pete Lit recently announced the opening of LitSpace, a school offering several unique writers workshops.
I met with Keep St. Pete Lit's Board at the Banyan Cafe on Central Avenue, just one floor below the new school. Maureen McDole, Jon Kile, Matthew Jackson and soon-to-be board member Mitzi Gordon meet regularly in the cafe, now hard at work registering new students, promoting the program and prepping courses.
"[LitSpace] provides an opportunity," says McDole, founding member of Keep St. Pete Lit. "The school is accessible and we hope it builds a literary wing in St. Pete's arts scene." More than accessible, all workshops are free and open to the public for registration.
- The Art of Writing Nonsense
- The Art of Revision
- Creative Non-Fiction
- Scene Painting
- Storytelling: The Art of Crafting Fiction
- Word Power: Career Success Through Vocabulary
More than just an outlet to craft poetry or fiction, these classes are meant to inspire writers in their daily lives. Word guru Matt Jackson emphasizes his ambition to instill and renew a love for reading in the citizens of St. Pete. Registered students and teachers alike boast diverse background, many of which aren't grounded in the arts.
Nurses, teachers, lawyers, full-time parents, advertisers and litigators are all rediscovering their passion for the written word and the expansive worlds that exist between paperback covers.
Jonathan Harrison, Curator of Education at the Morean Arts added in an email, "The Morean is all about providing our community with access to the arts, so to have Keep St Pete Lit offering free classes in literature and creative writing, and to be hosting this effort under the same roof as our art galleries, which are also free of charge, and our classes in the visual arts… it's a partnership that just makes sense and we couldn't be happier to be a part of it."
More remarkable about LitSpace is McDole's surprising discovery about the bookshelves inside the school's first classroom. "My father and brother built these shelves," said McDole. She discovered this after sending photos of the space to her family. Consistent with the community ethos of St. Pete, LitSpace is a center made of heart.
On top of the exciting development of workshops is the organization's new partnership with Bluebird Books Bus. The mobile movement is taking a prosaic turn in the Burg. Fingers-crossed that book mobiles become as prevalent as food trucks in St. Pete.
The classes offered won't all take place within the confines of the Morean Arts building. McDole and fellow board members are working to schedule night hikes at Boyd Hill, mural tours and trips up and down the coast of Tampa Bay to provide local influences for the budding writers.
To learn about Keep St. Pete Lit, visit the non-profits official website. For more information about LitSpace, to register for classes and to learn more about the programs, just follow this link. LitSpace classrooms are on the second floor of the Morean Arts Center, 719 Central Avenue.