Just how cool is Paul Wilborn? Ever since the 54-year-old arts czar was named executive director of the Palladium at St. Petersburg College this month, other cool people in St. Petersburg have begun ringing him up, cajoling him to move into their neighborhood. Rumor has it Wilborn, who most recently was paid by Tampa to be a man about town, can boost anything or anyone's cool potential. Last week, Neighborhood Times called him and asked for musings on his career and the drinking habits of certain creative types.
After working as a journalist for several decades, including at the Tampa Tribune and then the St. Petersburg Times, you left what seems like a pretty sweet gig at the Associated Press in Los Angeles to become Tampa's manager of creative industries. Then, this month, you were laid off as part of Mayor Pam Iorio's property tax cuts. Any regrets about taking the government job?
Actually, it was a really wonderful move for me. It brought me back to Tampa for a really high-profile, really wonderful gig. My wife really wanted to move back to the South. She is from New Orleans. She likes living in places where they serve grits for breakfast.
As a reporter, you were known for going to cool parties, being somewhat charming, and slapping together some colorful phrases. How did you translate that into a career as Tampa Bay's go-to man in the arts?
I had always done the arts afterhours. I am a musician. I have had bands. I play the piano, sing. I have done theater, musical theater, for most of my life.
What type of programming would you like to bring to the Palladium?
You are not going to see a huge change in the Palladium this season. We are going to announce a pretty amazing 10th anniversary season next summer. People are going to be really impressed with what we are doing. We are definitely going to continue doing opera, chamber music, cabaret, jazz, and we are really going to be looking at things we can do to incorporate what the college has in terms of educational efforts.
How do the social perks of your new job compare with those of your former position?
That's a good question. It's a little too early to tell yet. In my city job, I had to attend a lot of art events and a lot of afterhours events. Now, in this world, I will be attending those events to check out potential programming.
It must be nice to no longer have to explain what your job title means. I mean, "manager of creative industries for the city of Tampa" was a mouthful, right?
I know! I like this executive director title. This one you don't have to explain at all.
Did you want to be an artist when you were growing up or did you want to be the next Hemingway?
Journalism was always my career goal. The music was something I just did on the side. I didn't think I could make a living off of it. But I love the arts. I have been involved in it my whole life.
Are you in a band now?
I have a group called Paul Wilborn's Blue Roses. We do standards.
So who drinks more, journalists or artists?
For both of them, the reputation is way off from the reality. The journalists of the '50s used to drink. The journalists I know these days don't drink so much. The artists are really the same. I don't know very many self-destructive artists.
Any plans to cross the bay and set up house in St. Petersburg?
I think we can say yes. We have actually started looking at neighborhoods in St. Pete. We have been pitched on the Old Southeast, the Old Northeast and a couple of other areas. One woman told us she would take us for brunch and show us around the Old Southeast.
Sounds like people are bribing you to move into their neighborhood.
Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or firstname.lastname@example.org.