Monday, December 18, 2017
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Nude art show honors body beautiful in the buff

Now in its fourth year in Tampa, Nude Nite is returning to its Ybor City roots.

The nude art show will take place in an old broom factory on the gritty fringes of east Ybor. Organizer Kelly Stevens calls the Fourth Avenue warehouse "delightfully industrial'' and well-suited for showcasing edgy art and live performances that honor the body bare.

"It's an slice of old Florida. It hasn't been touched in 20 years,'' she said. "I hope people will enjoy that aspect of it.''

This year's theme is antique carnival, inspired by Steven's summer trip to the world renowned Venice Biennale contemporary art show in Italy. She modeled the look and feel after 1920s-era circuses in Brazil, New Orleans and Paris.

The three-day show, which opened Thursday, features more than 200 works by 160 local and national artists. Provocatively painted models, peek-a-boo ladies in feather boas, stilt walkers and other circus-inspired characters stroll the bazaar-style gallery. Burlesque dancers perform at 9, 10 and 11 p.m. daily. A spin-the-bottle game and House of Mirrors add to the slightly naughty, adults-only attractions.

Much of the art was created specifically for Nude Nite, which limits artists to a few works apiece. Some of the art will take form during the show, including a tower of wire people figures by artist Samantha Churchill. John DeMike made huge Venetian angels to float from the ceiling.

Stevens started Nude Nite in Orlando in 1997 as an experience-driven art show where people could buy art and also live it. She expanded to Tampa to increase opportunities for local artists whose nude work is often misunderstood or under-appreciated.

Tampa's first Nude Nite was held in 2009 in an Ybor City warehouse. It moved to the old Trolley Barn in Tampa Heights for the next two years but, when that property fell into bankruptcy, Stevens started scouting for a new venue.

Stevens likes the idea of hosting the show in an industrial, off-the-beaten-path location near Ybor. It tends to draw more diverse, raw art than the younger, polished city of Orlando and exposes people to an area of town they might not know otherwise. To make the area more inviting and accessible, the city improved the lighting and repaired potholes, she said.

"The art in Tampa is industrial, edgy and honest and reflects all kinds of lifestyles and interests,'' she said.

Anyone who purchases a piece receives free, lifetime admission to Nude Nite. After a few years of sluggish sales, last month's show in Orlando drew a bounty of buyers.

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