It's no accident that one of the keynote speakers at St. Petersburg's inaugural Et Cultura festival is a planning manager at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas.
Every hip city wants a South By Southwest of its own. Et Cultura, organizers believe, could one day fill that role for St. Pete.
"There was an existing vacuum for something like this to happen," said co-founder Colin Lyman, general manager of Green Bench Brewing. "People had been talking about doing it for a while, and we finally found ourselves with the right group of people with the right skill sets who were able to come together and make it happen."
Et Cultura runs Wednesday through Friday in venues around downtown, with Green Bench serving as a hub. It'll include a music festival, film festival, interactive events and more, all geared toward the sort of young creatives who typically frequent the city's Edge District on weekends. Several of them — filmmakers, artists, designers — are the ones bringing it to fruition.
Organizers have been conceptualizing Et Cultura — pronounced cul-TOOR-ah — for a year and a half, picking up steam following a small film festival at Green Bench last November. They got the ball rolling with an IndieGoGo campaign, but have since relied on sponsorships, donations, grants and in-kind assistance.
To pump up its first-year offerings, Et Cultura will team with existing events like yoga gatherings, movie screenings and the St. Pete Indie Market. That's not an accident. Back to South By Southwest: That festival grew because it adapted to the city around it, Lyman said, not the other way around.
"Every component of Et Cultura already exists in St. Pete," Lyman said. "I think it's going unnoticed because it's all happening independently, and you have to go to each one of those little events and spend a little money and time taking it in. Putting it under one small footprint, like, 'Hey everybody, this is all the cool things we have going on in this city; you can see it all in one afternoon,' lends it more legitimacy and recognition."
Organizers are hoping the event's one-size-fits-all $25 price tag will be enough to convince people to come out. If so, it'll only get bigger in Year 2.
"I thought we were just building a festival when we started this, but after hundreds of meetings with everybody in the city, we're creating a community," said co-founder and filmmaker Joel Mazilia. "It's just a really interesting thing that's happened, and we're calling it a festival."
Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.