Straz CEO Greg Holland wants to try new things with Tampa Bay arts

The new CEO of the Straz Center shares how he sees bringing an entrepreneurial approach can elevate the performing arts scene.
Greg Holland, president and CEO of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts addresses the group Café con Tampa on Friday.
Greg Holland, president and CEO of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts addresses the group Café con Tampa on Friday. [ [Courtesy of Don Kruse] ]
Published June 2|Updated June 2

TAMPA — Greg Holland says he loves Tampa because of its open-ended opportunity.

As the new president and CEO of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, he plans to take advantage of that opportunity, focusing on bringing new arts to Tampa and engaging the existing community in every way its artists can.

Holland hopes to achieve this through combining aspects of art and entrepreneurship industries. He described his approach at the periodic speaker series, Café con Tampa, held at Willa’s restaurant in North Hyde Park on Friday.

“Artpreneurship,” as he called it, is perfect for a city like Tampa, brimming with new artistic possibilities.

He said there are three key characteristics to it, which both artists and entrepreneurs share: being outward-looking, open institutions and, in this high-tech age, digital forward. For each of these characteristics, he gave a few examples of how the Straz Center has aimed to embody them since he took over in October.

To create outward-looking institutions, Holland said that artists and entrepreneurs have to constantly look for inspiration and ways to carry ideas forward. At the Straz Center, they’re looking to channel that idea by embracing what makes Tampa strong, but also things that come from outside of the region, like Holland himself.

As an example of this idea in action, Holland talked about the process of acquiring the British musical “The Choir of the Man” to play in the Straz Center this October:

“Instead of directly to Broadway, we’ll create a Tampa-only production,” Holland said. “But instead of taking walks on the West End and slapping it into one of our bigger theaters, we’re creating an immersive environment in our 300-seat Jaeb Theater.”

As an open institution, Holland said that letting everyone in the community know that they are welcome is important. As examples, he talked about programs at the Straz Center that work with veterans and children.

“We really don’t monetize it, we’re not selling tickets to it,” Holland said about the community projects he described. “But as a nonprofit community service organization, it’s one of our key leading requirements that we serve the community, that we can use those entrepreneurial approaches to grow these important projects.”

Holland then spoke about having the digital focus of the center a growing priority because, as he said, “we live in a digital world.”

“The point of digital is that there’s all sorts of ways that we can use digital technology to engage, especially newer, younger audiences,” Holland said. He spoke about using augmented reality and collaborating with local museums, such as the Salvador Dalí Museum, that are using technology in inspiring ways.

For half an hour after his talk, Holland took questions from the audience; gallery owners and community members alike pitched him with ideas and asked for more specifics. He ended the talk by thanking everyone and extending an open invitation to the Straz Center, to come see “artpreneurship” in person.