Ybor City has always been a haven for bohemians — even when developers and corporate interests forced the independent business owners, local bands and artmakers to the outlying areas of the district.
Now, artists from outside the district are even commuting to work in Ybor because the energy is so great there right now. Ybor’s re-burgeoning arts scene illustrates how camaraderie and support can turn unknowns into thriving professionals. Artists push each other to be more daring and experimental, which in turn gives more to art lovers and the community.
If you’re curious about Ybor’s artistic resurgence, February offers a bounty of Ybor art shows (and one honorary Ybor artist in Pinellas). Here are a handful of events coming up:
Silver Meteor Gallery‘s next art show will spotlight one of Tampa’s most enduring and imaginative painters, Ken Echezabal. Psychedelically inclined, bold and a connoisseur of color, the Tampa native owned Dog Eat Dog Artwear in Ybor City in the late 1980s. His artwork has added distinction to some of Tampa’s alternative night clubs over the years, like Masquerade, DNA, the Parthenon and the Castle. Echezabal studied fine art at the University of South Florida and the Ringling College of Art & Design.
Liquid Experiments — Paintings by Ken Echezabal runs from Saturday, Feb. 6, to Sunday, Feb. 14. Attend an opening reception for the show Saturday, Feb. 6, from 7 to 11 p.m.. Admission is free. Other hours by appointment.
According to a press release from Silver Meteor owner Michael A. Murphy, the exhibition will explore two different styles of Echezabal’s experimental painting:
“In one series, Ken manipulates built-up layers of paint; the other, contains Op Art pieces done with fluorescent paint. The combination of these two distinct styles will be illuminated with both halogen (white) and ultraviolet (black) light.”
Echezabal studied fine art at the University of South Florida and the Ringling College of Art & Design. Raw, wild expression often complements his expert technique.
Says Echezabal of Liquid Experiments: “I would describe the show as an introspective space odyssey. I will be showing several different styles of painting, with various distorted and inflated perspectives.”
Silver Meteor Gallery can be found at 2213 E. Sixth Ave., between 22nd and 23rd streets, in Ybor City. Click here for the venue’s Facebook page.
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The owners of Ybor’s 14 Days to Close real estate have gone from art supporters to gallery owners by agreeing to display local art into its office’s new makeshift gallery space, The Gallery @ 14 Days.
The idea of the gallery started when artist/curator Brien Hockman was showing his works and others in tent shows.
“At one, I met Realtor Grant Vreeland who expressed a strong interest in my display,” Hockman recalls. “We chatted about his desire to have creative energy in his office space. After a few emails and calls I met him at their office at 2609 E. Seventh Ave. My first impression of the space was, Wow there is no art with the exception of a mural depicting their logo. … I had asked grant and Jordan Vreeland what did they typically do for home owners when they closed on a house. Grant explained that they typically would give a gift card to Home Depot or home decor. I suggested, why not start with art?”
An agreement was made that Hockman would get artists to create an innovative work space rent free if the Realtors would purchase art. How often and how much would depend on their profit margin on a new home or business closing.
Hockman himself didn’t pursue his dream to make and sell art until he and his wife watched the movie The Bucket List.
“After the movie, we talked about life’s dreams and missed opportunities,” Hockman reminisced. “We started our own bucket list with each of us putting a folded piece of paper in a coffee can. Depending on what was pulled would be what we did for the weekend. My wife, Katrina, had put do an art show within a year. That was the starting point five years ago … Since then our works have made it to the Regent Gallery of HCC, a couple of restaurants, an animal hospital, a cardiologist office and an upcoming Warner Brothers movie (Bastards) with Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close, Terry Bradshaw and J.K. Simmons.”
On Feb. 26, celebrate Hockman and Vreeland’s successes, and most importantly of all, the works of local artists at Evening of the Arts @14 Days. The event is a great way to become acquainted with this refreshingly new gallery concept and features live painting, music, food and beverage, and a meet-and-greet with the gallery’s artists.
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Mason Schwacke doesn’t live in Ybor (he lives in Largo) but he’s worked with the artists in the Ybor Art Asylum collective, where he gained a following for his owls and other colorful, expressionistic creatures.
For his next show, Schwacke will be schlepping new works to Gulfport’s PORTSPACE Gallery, which, incidentally, is also finishing up a show by another talented Ybor-based artist, Bekky Beukes.
A Color of Their Own opens Feb. 20 at Portspace with an opening reception coinciding with Gulfport’s third Saturday art walk. The show takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. and features small paper works and a large-scale mural that will be completed on the gallery walls.
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MF Arts is at the heart of the young Ybor artist scene. Its next big event, Love and Lust He(Art) Show, on Saturday night, Feb. 27, should offer more of the imaginative, fringy-fun and convivial vibes that have made the warehouse space at 1616 E. Second Ave. such a big crowd-pleaser during its first year in Ybor.
Love and Lust, touted as a collaboration of local artists, photographers and performers, and will highlight a staggering variety of visual artists Samuel Ramon, Macy Eats Paint, Milli Misa, JunkYrd, Dylan Perry, Jenna Marie Alderiso and Jake Troyli. The variety should be staggering
Photographers Chevy Chevarria, Harrison Ponce, Bailley Burd, Kenny Bobby and Allison Nielsen will also show their imagery, and expect just as much boundary-pushing music/live performances by Robb Gats, Granata, Mike Mass, HMTWN and Louis Junior. DJ Wally Clark spins in between.
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On the same night as MF Arts’ event (make it a twofer!), LiveArt Laboratories brings us Insanity in Motion: An Exploration of Off The Rails Performance Art, an exploration of performance art in a wide range of forms.
The lineup includes suspensions by Oxi Lox, aerial silks by Suzanne Curry, fire performing organized by Nemo, Rally, and Rose, music by Bride of Chaotica and Synthetic Nation
Shibari by Stephanie Kinkaid, A Live Musical Ritual by LILITH and Project Ohmsted.
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Though the DIY stronghold on commerce along Seventh Avenue temporarily slipped away, and we lost the neighborhood’s art master, Theo Wujcik, the Ybor City’s art scene is alive and well.
Ybor is downright exciting right now with more and more works coming from The Ybor Art Alliance, Ybor Art Asylum, MF Arts and other fringe-friendly galleries have created a renewed sense of community. The thrum of positive energy in Tampa’s historic district has definitely been palpable. I’m sure that Theo would love it.