In the spring of 2010, the revival of the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg brought a new vibe to a corridor once plagued by neglect.
The resurgence added art studios, galleries and small shops offering clothing and home furnishings and, more important, a sense of community among merchants of the Crislip Arcade and other store owners there.
Now plans are in the works to add a new wrinkle to the mix. An Internet-based community radio station is coming to Rhino Film Studios at 657 Central Ave.
The 24-hour station, rhinoonair.com, is scheduled to launch on Oct. 17. It will feature 15 hosts doing 10 segments. Live shows will air from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, followed by rebroadcasts through the night. For the most part, those segments will focus on the arts.
Listen closely enough and it sounds as if the arts community has found its voice and is going viral.
The venture is a collaborative effort led by Ann Marie Cash, a publicist for a host of artists in downtown St. Petersburg.
Dr. Kyle Remmel, a local chiropractor, and Cliff Gephart, owner of Rhino Film Studios, are Cash's business partners.
"The radio station is a spinoff of some of the networking going on in the art community," Cash said. "It is basically by the arts, for the arts."
This isn't her first venture in Internet-based radio. Her show, Connect the Dots, which focuses on empowering people through the arts, was on Life Improvement Radio, another Internet-based radio station at 6408 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N.
Cash, who moved to St. Petersburg a year ago after living in the Westchase neighborhood in northwest Hillsborough County for seven years, parted ways with that station months ago. She also launched the website thebestofstpete.com, which she describes as "for the arts by the arts."
"When the Life Improvement thing happened, I was so sad," she said. "I was paying $300 for my show; it was not free," she said, adding that most hosts at the station pay for airtime. "So I was devastated."
After leaving Life Improvement, Cash said, she posted an announcement about her status on Facebook. That is when Gephart, the owner of Rhino, called and a plan was hatched.
"When one door closes, a whole radio station opens," said Cash.
Internet-based radio isn't a new phenomenon, but its popularity is growing, especially for listeners looking for alternatives to offerings on the AM/FM dials.
Internet radio uses streaming technology that allows listeners to tune in online. Unlike satellite radio, it doesn't require listeners to subscribe to the service. It's available simply by clicking a mouse. Studies show that 54 million Americans tune in each month.
According to Arbitron and Edison Media Research, which have been tracking new forms of radio since 1998, the online radio audience has 33 million listeners each week. The 2008 study found that 15 percent of those listeners are 25 to 54, a group that is important to advertisers.
The findings of the study bode well for the new venture since Cash has already built a base of supporters who will likely tune in. She has been active with potential listeners via the Best of St. Pete and said the radio station is an extension of the website. Cash said she intends for the segments to reflect that.
The segments aren't limited to the arts. Some will feature comedy, indie music and filmmaking. Sugar and Spice will focus on cooking. The segments are free for the hosts, who will help Cash find sponsors and advertising for the station.
Another show, One Love, will be hosted by local artist and entrepreneur Rasta Geary Taylor, who owns a shop in the 600 block of Central.
"My show will basically be an extension of me," said the 40-year-old Nebraska native. Taylor said his segment will focus on art, healthy living, community relations and comedy. He plans to line up guests for programs that will run the gamut from diet and fitness to art and fashion.
Taylor, who is known around town as the "original Nebraskafarian," said he's excited by the buzz about the new station and how he has been embraced in the community.
"St. Pete's been great to me. I've lived in Clearwater and Largo, but I never expected the people to embrace me the way they have," he said. "I have great friends and support group here. The support group is awesome. I have to give them props."
If the station is successful, the arts community will be able to engage followers on another platform that has not been available locally.
The venture also may serve as a model for other groups whose voices have been muted by the corporate dominance of traditional airwaves.
Sandra J. Gadsden is an assistant metro editor, community news. She can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8874.