One of the Sunshine City's newest districts has quickly become the city's arts hub.
Last week I mentioned a couple of Salt Creek Artworks artists setting up shop in the Warehouse Arts District.
This week, patrons of St. Petersburg's Second Saturday Gallery Walk will notice a few welcome additions.
For starters, there's no longer an excuse for not venturing to the district. Last month, many people took advantage of the free trolleys that allow exploration of more than 25 galleries and studios.
Saturday's event will welcome a new enclave for clay artists, the Clay Center of St. Petersburg at 400 23rd St. S.
Nancy Mayer is the president of the 6,200-square-foot facility, which houses 15 artists. The full-service clay studio offers classes, private studios and group spaces.
Interest in the new facility, which opened Friday, has been high, so much so that there's only one more studio available. But Mayer says there's an option for expansion and talks are in the works with the building owner, Scott Bogg, a real estate developer.
The Clay Center is housed in a 10,000-square-foot, single-story building that consumes half of the block, with a large parking lot on Fifth Avenue S.
Not to be confused with St. Petersburg Clay, the Clay Center's founders actually had their sights set on that facility.
"We offered to buy St. Pete Clay, but it was not for sale," said Mayer, "so we started looking for our own place."
Mayer, Lyn Van Voorst and Judy McKelligott, founder of the outfit, were all former executives in the corporate world. But all the while, they were dabbling in clay.
"Our spot is great. We can see Duncan's (McClellan) place from here and he usually has a great turnout."
Citing that the arts are no longer solely downtown, Mayer expressed excitement about the city's growth potential.
"Asheville started with one studio and look at it now. That's what's happening in St. Pete. There's room for everybody, and it's expanding and it's just great," said Mayer, who also owns La Veranda bed and breakfast on Fifth Avenue N.
Mayer and company are looking forward to their first art walk on Saturday.
"I love it. We already have people coming in to sign up for class. We've only had the building for four weeks. If you can see what we've done with it so far, you'd be amazed," she said.
Park's dual identity
As a weekly visitor to Williams Park, it had become quite obvious to me that a new sore was beginning to fester there.
For many visitors, the park is a very different place at 9 a.m., but within a few hours, college students and many workers who use public transportation would prefer to walk an extra block or two to avoid the park altogether.
Mayor Bill Foster's tough stance on banning the sale of spice and K2 — synthetic marijuana — is a good start.
But until residents stage an organized effort to plan more events, activities and outings in the park, it will continue its ongoing chess match with city officials.