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Helping women artists find an audience using mermaids, a DJ and a mural that moves

OCTAVIO JONES | Times Renee Warmack, left, of Renee Warmack Productions and Alexandria Jones, a documentary filmmaker will be a part of an event "The Art of Women: A Celebration of Diversity" an evening providing a platform to connect, unite and empower diverse women through art next week on October 5th.

TAMPA — Renee Warmack made her presence known in the local arts scene through her 2007 documentary Ten at the Top in Tampa Bay, chronicling the area's top female government leaders and sharing how they broke the glass ceiling.

Now, through art shows she curates, Warmack is helping local female artists break through.

The show will spotlight 13 women working in a variety of genres. Titled, The Art of Women: A Celebration of Diversity is scheduled for 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday (Oct. 5) at Centro Asturiano in Ybor City.

"Women still do not get the same opportunities as men," said Warmack, 53, founder of Renee Warmack Productions. She held her first show highlighting women artists in March and plans to have more.

"It is getting better, but the playing field is not level yet," she said. "Women are still not being heard. I want to give them the attention they deserve."

The shows, she said, "provide a platform to connect, unite and empower diverse women."

She stressed that this is no "pinky in the air" event.

"It will be a club atmosphere with a DJ where you can meet artists," she said. And the exhibits are designed for fun.

One example is Susie Pennoyer is a member of the Legendary Sirens, a group of eight Weeki Wachee Springs State Park mermaids ages 63-79 who retired as fulltime entertainers but still perform once a month.

Dressed as a mermaid, Pennoyer will appear as part of an installation that includes a projection of vintage 1940s footage showing the Weeki Wachee mermaids. The exhibit is produced by Warmack and her spouse Sandi Eveleth, a film editor.

Musician and muralist Lakeema Mathew and actress and dancer Monique Wilburn will collaborate on a dance exhibit that includes a live performance involving an illusion within an eight-foot mural.

Warmack introduced the two to one another.

Brenda Bohannon will be featured in a short video screened alongside a collection of her colorful paintings. The film was produced and directed by Alexandria Jones. Storyteller and comedian Natasha Samreny interviewed Bohannon.

Warmack also introduced the three of them.

She said she had long known about the talents of Bohannon and Samreny but just discovered Jones during May while visiting Jet City Espresso in Seminole Heights.

Warmack was there for caffeine while Jones was filming for a documentary on the food scene in trendy Seminole Heights.

Titled Oldie but Foodie, the documentary was Jones' final project for a master's degree in digital journalism from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

As Jones, 29, was setting up lights, Warmack introduced herself and requested footage.

"I wasn't sure what was happening," Jones said with a laugh. "But I said of course."

Impressed by what she saw, Warmack asked Jones the next day if she wanted to be part of the Oct. 5 event.

Warmack is now helping Jones get her foodie documentary distributed.

"I thought about doing more with the film than just use it for school," Jones said. "But I had no idea how until I met Rene."

This is Warmack's way of "paying it forward," she said.

When she completed her Ten at the Top in Tampa Bay documentary — featuring then-mayor Pam Iorio, Hillsborough County Circuit Court Clerk Pat Frank and another eight local women in powerful positions — Warmack was unsure what to do with it next.

"I knew how to produce but not get it seen."

It turns out she really did.

Before turning to filmmaking full time, Warmack worked 20 years in government including a stint as manager of special projects for the Children's Board of Hillsborough County.

Connections she made during those two decades helped Warmack land a deal to air the documentary through PBS affiliate WEDU.

"I don't have all the answers," Warmack said. "But I have some and want to pass what I know on to others."

She hopes every artist who takes part in her shows has the same approach.

"Through mentoring and sharing connections, we can help each other," she said.

"These are more than art shows. These are incubators for the artists."

The Art of Women

When: 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday (Oct. 5)

Where: Centro Asturiano, 1913 N Nebraska Ave,

Tickets: $20 in advance at reneewarmackproductions.com and $30 cash only at the door.

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com. Follow @PGuzzoTimes

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