” St. Pete’s thriving arts and cultural community is a key reason people want to live here, businesses want to be based here and the smart money is investing here. Art and culture improves our quality of life and attracts the people and businesses we want as our neighbors.”
- Liz Dimmitt, CEO & Co-Founder, Fairgrounds St. Pete
Opening a museum during a global pandemic was not on the radar for most, but you made it happen. What made St. Pete the place and 2020 the time to bring Fairgrounds St. Pete to life?
We started working on Fairgrounds St. Pete in 2019, before the pandemic, but 2020 was the year that we made our big push forward, started commissioning artists, began building exhibits, and finalized our funding. The pandemic created many unknowns and raised lots of questions, but also created opportunities. For example, we moved up the launch of our initial artist call because we knew artists would be home with time on their hands and in need of paid opportunities. We were also able to contract some wonderful experts from the attractions and themed entertainment industries who were only available because they were laid off during the pandemic to help us design and build out Fairgrounds St. Pete.
St. Pete was the ideal location to launch Fairgrounds St. Pete because of its thriving cultural scene including a deep network of talented working artists, proven history of community support for the arts, thriving museum ecosystem, and notable municipal and county support of the arts. I grew up in Pinellas County and believe that, thanks to the labors of many artists and cultural organizations, this is our cultural renaissance. I am glad to be a part of it.
Downtown St. Pete hosts a vibrant array of art institutions and mediums of expression. What is it that draws them together in such a relatively compact footprint?
Being based in a city with water on 3 sides helps, but also art and culture do best when neighboring other art and cultural institutions and community participants. Good art begets more good and the rising tide raises all boats.
What are some of the impacts you see the arts having on Downtown?
St. Pete’s thriving arts and cultural community is a key reason people want to live here, businesses want to be based here and the smart money is investing here. Art and culture improves our quality of life and attracts the people and businesses we want as our neighbors.
In what ways do you see our community supporting and fostering the arts?
First and foremost, city officials and organizations, such as the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership value the arts and understand the positive impact that culture has on St. Pete life across the board. We also have large, active and diverse groups of patrons, makers, volunteers and champions that foster and support the larger cultural community. I am always impressed and reassured about the fact that when you share creative ideas here, the overwhelming response is, “how can I help?”
How can we do better?
We always need more art collectors and cultural patrons. We need to continue investing and supporting culture and art as individuals, businesses and community leaders. I hope everyone who reads this will come visit Fairgrounds St. Pete and then share about their experience at our space.
The pattern of creating art-rich communicates and then seeing the artists become priced out is a very real challenge for both the artists and the communities aspiring to retain their identity. How can we cautiously balance development while avoiding gentrification?
We need to continue to fund and support paid opportunities for artists and creatives. We also need to elect smart community leaders who will shepherd along the right kind of development in the right places and support diverse projects and initiatives that consider all citizens. I like to think that Fairgrounds St. Pete aids in these efforts by providing artists with alternative sources of income and a larger stage to share their work.