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  1. Visual Arts

What's happening in Tampa Bay art: Akiko Kotani's solo exhibit, a pairing at Leslie Curran Gallery


Since Akiko Kotani moved to Tampa Bay several years ago, she has made a huge impression on the local art scene, with three solo exhibitions and two group shows. She was recently named Creative Pinellas' Artist Laureate, an honor that comes with solo exhibit "Unbound," opening Thursday. The exhibit is composed of two large-scale installations of crocheted plastic. The material is draped over two 8-foot walls in Soft Walls, exploring the notions of women's hand work, a point especially made through the use of garbage bags. With Waterfalls of Millford Valley, she uses the same material to create flowing forms that cascade from the ceiling and puddle on the floor, reminiscent of a New Zealand paradise she visited. Reception from 6-9 p.m., with a conversation with Kotani at 7 p.m. She'll lead a Lunch and Learn workshop on being a professional artist from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday ($5, $15 includes box lunch). On June 23, she will lead a PechaKucha 20x20 session, in which artists present 20 images of their work for 20 seconds. Remains on display through July 29. Gallery hours are noon-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. 12211 Walsingham Road, Largo. (727) 582-3600.

FINE PAIRING: Knuckle Sandwich

The Leslie Curran Gallery always does a brilliant job pairing artists. It has happened again with "Knuckle Sandwich," putting Denis Gaston's textured drawings and paintings with Gabriel Ramos' energetic metal sculptures. Gaston's work is often colorful and would seem whimsical, except that you get the sense there is more going on than just the narrative. He's known to fill them with personal, hidden meanings. Ramos manages to create the sense of motion in steel wire sculptures that are evocative of a scribble. They're inspired by his childhood in Puerto Rico, also rich with personal details. See them for yourself and chat up the artists during the opening reception. Remains on display through July 13. Free. 6-9 p.m. Saturday. 1431 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 898-6061.

EARLY EXPOSURE: James Museum's Family Day

My lifelong appreciation of art began when my mom took me to the Art Institute in Chicago at 3. Early exposure to art can really shape a life, so grab your little ones and head to the James Museum's family day. Activities begin with the unveiling of a new mural in the Children's Studio by Shine mural festival artist Cecilia Lueza, who will discuss her colorful work. Next is a tour of the galleries to search for primary and secondary hues from the color wheel. Kids can create their own sun catchers and there is story time. Best for ages 3-10, although I'm sure teens and adults would be into the mural unveiling. Included with museum admission: $20, $15 students, seniors and military, $10 ages 7-18, 6 and younger free. 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday. 150 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 892-4200.