After five years, the nonprofit St. Pete Women’s Collective is dissolving and closing its Fringe District studio space, Venus St. Pete.
The St. Pete Women’s Collective was founded in 2017 by Ashley Sweet, Emily Stone, Jeanette St. Amour, Jodi Chemes, Mitzi Gordon and Tiffany Elliott, focusing on women’s issues. Over the years, the volunteer-driven organization held 150 community events.
The collective started in a live-work bungalow in the Artist Enclave of Historic Kenwood, where the “Nasty Women Art Show” drew a large crowd.
In 2019, Venus St. Pete opened as a commercial gallery, studio, classroom and event space.
One of the collective’s core missions was to provide affordable studio space to creatives. But with rising rents and utilities and the pandemic halting fundraising activities, the decision was made to close Venus St. Pete because those spaces wouldn’t be affordable anymore.
Gordon said the landlord has been a supportive partner, but it was inevitable that rent would increase because of how much the city is changing.
“I’ll say this, collective buying power was what got us this far for this long,” she said. “The strength of many people with a shared vision coming together to contribute funds, time and talent was crucial to our success.”
She sees the closing as a new season for the artists and creatives who shared space there and feels optimistic about their future careers. Gordon continues work as one of the founders of SPACEcraft, a public art project that brings free, outdoor, hand-on experiences to public parks. She’s also working on a collaborative project with Stone at the upcoming arts attraction Peninsularium in Tampa.
The decision to dissolve the St. Pete Women’s Collective was made because members of the original leadership moved away.
There will be one last event: On Jan. 22, Venus Retrograde, a sidewalk sale and gallery show, will be open from 4 to 9 p.m. at Venus St. Pete, 244 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N.
“It’s bittersweet. We have so many amazing memories, " Gordon said. “We feel really good as a group about what we’ve been able to share and how we’ve been able to support local artists. So that’s the sweet part.”