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Arts make debut at Jazz Holiday

The new Downtown Clearwater Arts Colony will open for business with artists and craft workers staffing at least nine downtown storefronts when Jazz Holiday kicks off.

Festival-goers can visit the studio/galleries from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the first three days of the jazz fest. The stores will not open Sunday.

Clearwater's Downtown Development Board hired Clearwater resident Brenda Nixon to act as liason between arts groups and downtown property owners while transforming empty stores into studios and galleries.

She described the project as "multicultural and multigenerational. The property owners are so enthusiastic about this and are being so generous. As for the artists, when you give them a studio and tell them this is their chance to make it, you are really affecting people's lives."

The aim is to make Cleveland Street attractive to retailers, business owners and potential renters. City officials also hope the artsy atmosphere will attract shoppers and browsers to the downtown area.

Artists will pay their own telephone and utility bills, but will pay no rent as long as no one wants to lease the property. If someone does offer to lease, the artist will have the opportunity then to begin paying rent and keep the studio for themselves. In many cases, the spaces are being used by groups, rather than individual artists.

"To see so many different groups working so hard together to make something a success is just overwhelming," Ms. Nixon said. "We are accomplishing major innovations downtown that people have been trying to do for years."