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Raw Vibes keeps it creative, open-minded in downtown St. Pete


Everything they do at Raw Vibes Art is meant to be a performance.

Painting and photography. Sculpture. Theater. Film. Zumba. Yoga. Salsa. DJ and MC battles. Aerial acrobatics.

All of these things are on the schedule at the new business at 2109 Central Ave. What ties them all together is a soaring red velvet curtain and a bank of mirrors in a room with a 16-foot ceiling and cherrywood flooring. A DJ spins music in a corner. It creates a sanctum for lessons and exhibits.

The hodgepodge is a business strategy for first-time owners Jeff Henriquez and Laly Laporte, who opened the shop a few months ago. Offer more, the thinking goes, and more will come.

"We like the fact that we can't be categorized," said Henriquez, 35, an art school graduate who moved to the area eight years ago. "I think that the more open we remain, the more flexible that allows for us to be."

The offerings continue to grow. Capoeira and flamenco dance and live figure drawing instruction are in the works.

The gallery is on the edge of the Grand Central District, a growing arts hub that has seen an art supply store, art seminar space, painting classes, and new bars and restaurants arrive in recent months, joining the long-established Craftsman House Gallery and other working artists.

Henriquez and Laporte are hands-on entrepreneurs. His paintings adorn the walls along with a rotating exhibit of local talent. A fitness instructor, Laporte, 26, teaches Zumba classes several times a week. For their opening night on Halloween, the co-owners put on face paint and joined in on a performance that incorporated dance, mime and a smoke machine.

While Zumba and salsa lessons may be easy to find around the city, the business offers outlets for more unusual disciplines. Eye-hooks secured to the ceiling can hold a variety of hanging contraptions. Travis Mesman, a local dancer and performer, teaches a "rogue aerialist" class several nights a week. Many of the classes, however, feature strength-building exercises intended to prepare students for the air.

Once a month, the business hosts DJ or MC battles, which are common in Tampa. Equally unusual: a smaller room in the back is painted pitch black in order to host "Black Box" theater, a fairly new experimental form of dramatic performance.

"All of the arts have to start somewhere," said Dick Patterson, 69, of St. Petersburg, a guitarmaker who stopped in one night.

Reach Luis Perez at


Raw Vibes

2109 Central Ave.

(727) 557-8266

Raw Vibes keeps it creative, open-minded in downtown St. Pete 12/08/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 8, 2009 4:46pm]
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