The ArtsXchange project in St. Petersburg continues to grow

Gallery space, a member lounge and new visibility are among the improvements.
Published July 15

ST. PETERSBURG — As St. Petersburg’s art scene keeps spreading its wings, so does one of its main players. The ArtsXchange project, located in the Warehouse Arts District at 515 22nd St. S,, has completed phase two of a long planned renovation.

“We’re continuing to fulfill our mission to provide artists an affordable place to work,” said executive director Diane Bailey Morton.

The ArtsXchange was created in 2014, when the Warehouse Arts District Association bought 50,000 square feet of warehouse space. By 2017, more than 16,000 square feet of those warehouses were renovated into 28 art studios, the 1,600-square-foot Tully-Levine gallery and a 1,000-square-foot second floor gallery.

The most dramatic recent change is the removal of several uninhabitable warehouses in the center of the compound, opening up visibility to 22nd Street S. The space will remain open and will be turned into a pavilion where art markets can be held.

The Burka member lounge and member artists’ gallery is also part of the expansion. The space has added air conditioning and a kitchenette, gallery lighting and an administrative office. Art work will rotate every three months and members can use the space as a place to gather during art walks and other events.

Additionally, a 2,000-square-foot former convenience store in a strip center on the compound has been renovated into an available studio space.

Future plans include an education center that will be equipped as a dance studio with springboard floors and barres. It could also be used as a yoga or fitness studio.

“We’re happy to blend health with art,” said Morton.

Sculptor Mark Aeling, president of the Warehouse Arts District Association, has been the volunteer project manager of the renovations from the beginning.

“This is a bridge that brings some of the energy from Central Avenue to another area,” he said.

Aeling said the association has worked hard to make the Warehouse Arts District not only a place for artists, but for the community of Midtown, where it’s located. The Warehouse Arts District Association also spearheaded a public private partnership with the city of St. Petersburg to illuminate the Pinellas Trail from 20th to 24th streets south, which took four years.

He’s also working on a sculpture that will reside on the compound. It’s a 9/11 memorial that contains a piece of metal from the World Trade Center. The project is through Florida-based American Freedom Distillery, started by a group of soldiers who were among the first boots on the ground in Afghanistan post 9/11. All 50 states have received a piece of the World Trade Center.

Much like the renewal happening in the ArtsXchange, Aeling’s sculpture, “Rise,” is about rebirth. He’s conceived wings wrapping around the sculpture, inspired by mythical creature the phoenix.

Morton said they are continuing to raise funds for future projects and that the interest in the ArtsXchange continues to grow. She said they get hundreds of people at their monthly exhibitions during art walks. Currently, all of the studios are rented and there is a 400 person waiting list.

“I consider us the anchor of the area,” she said.

Contact Maggie Duffy at mduffy@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8572. Follow @maggiedalexis.

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