Tag Archives: Cultural Tourism

Art, Artists, Tourism and Florida

A Brief History of the Selling of Art in Florida

Florida has somewhat matured over the years, especially in its attraction of artists to the state who come here for the relatively inexpensive cost of living and the sunshine.  It is also attractive because inexpensive housing and a fairly good base of art collectors come through the state.

The earliest art sold in Florida was not to Floridians.  It was to tourists. Artists such as Martin Johnson Heade or Frank Shapleigh rented studios at the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine and these artists would paint and sell their wares to the wealthy tourists from up north.  Their cluster of studios became somewhat of a cultural attraction to the wealthy patrons staying at the hotel.  This having happened only over 120 years ago as the hotel opened in 1889.

The works were created generally as souvenirs for the wealthy and would typically be scenes that included flora and fauna typical of Florida or perhaps street scenes as was the case with St. Augustine.  Sunsets, steamers and flowering plants were common themes.  This was the start of the art industry in Florida.

Today, while we have certainly transitioned from the old itinerary using steamers and stagecoach, the fundamentals haven’t changed all that much.  Tourists still come in to Florida and still buy art and take it home with them.  While we don’t know for sure what percentage of art is bought by what are now Floridians, we do know that tourism makes up a significant, if not a majority, share of this as the two major art centers of Florida today – St. Petersburg and Miami – have become tourist destinations in the past century and continue with their international draw today.

But back to the 1880s for a moment, as St. Petersburg and Miami didn’t yet exist as incorporated towns in Florida, this was at a time when the railway ran as far south as Jacksonville and steamers plied the St. Johns River. The typical visitor’s itinerary consisted of a trip to Jacksonville, the largest city in the state, St. Augustine for its history, a steamer down the St. Johns River and another down the Ocklawaha.  There were variations on this itinerary and stage coaches were used to shuttle people from the ports where the steamers would call in to small towns such as Gainesville and Ocala.

The city of Jacksonville has changed dramatically since it was the first transportation hub of Florida tourists in the 1880s.

The city of Jacksonville has changed dramatically since it was the first transportation hub of Florida tourists in the 1880s.

Many of these early tourists were considered naturalists as they had an interest in nature.  There was, in fact, little else in Florida at the time.  While most paintings were nature scenes and landscapes, there were details of some of the flowers of Florida in some of these early paintings.

But the artist colony was focused in St. Augustine as the tourist center of the state was located there.  Tourism was in this case acting as the distribution channel for art.   It isn’t very dissimilar to some of the earliest cultural attractions in the state of Florida.  They relied on tourists to support them as the residents of the state were typically unable, for the most part, to support larger cultural attractions that primarily consisted of museums.

In the industrialized north, philanthropists funded museums and supported artists.  There was no tradition of this in the agrarian south and the model of support became something between fractured philanthropy and cultural tourism from the North.  The state’s earliest “museums” were designed to attract tourists.  These were in Jacksonville and St. Augustine.

The Vedder Museum in St. Augustine.  Photo courtesy State Archives of Florida.

The Vedder Museum in St. Augustine. Photo courtesy State Archives of Florida.

Slowly, artists began to locate in areas outside of St. Augustine.  St. Petersburg probably got the earliest start with artists, or visitors who took an interest in the arts, having had an arts club formed in 1917, ten years before the Florida Federation of Art was formed and well before the 1924 founding of the local arts club in St. Augustine.  Earliest museums in the state included the Ringling in Sarasota and the Norton in Palm Beach.  Art was starting to diversify as a commodity in Florida.   In the decades that followed the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg was soon exporting art in the form of reproduction posters throughout the world.

Today we have significant colonies of artists still in St. Augustine as well as Key West, Miami and St. Petersburg.  There are other clusters of artists throughout the state in other towns and cities of course and many towns now have an arts district.

Marketing Art and Tourism in Florida

The point of this article is to consider what is the next step in the maturation of the arts industry in Florida.  If you look at other similar destinations that have art as a common denominator, you’ll find a movement and an eager tourism industry embracing the “local” feel to the area in places such as Ashville, North Carolina, Richmond, Virginia and Provincetown, Massachusetts.   In much older destinations such as Paris or Venice, albeit far larger cities, the arts scene has flourished to include museums, cafes, galleries and artist enclaves.  In St. Petersburg, my hometown, a very active group called “Keep St. Pete Local” is heavily involved in maintaining the local character of the city that keeps it well positioned as distinct from destinations where a more chain style of infrastructure exists.

One of the arts districts in St. Petersburg, the Central Arts District, has links to the other districts with a trolley service.

One of the arts districts in St. Petersburg, the Central Arts District, has links to the other districts with a trolley service.

Miami and St. Petersburg are both in a unique position to be able to further develop their arts industries through tourism.  Art Basel in Miami continues to be a strong annual arts-related event that attracts tourists in great concentrated numbers.  St. Petersburg continues to draw cultural tourists year-round in what is developing as an arts fair that happens throughout the year and in multiple arts districts throughout the city.

While Miami has matured to include very high end art, St. Petersburg’s niche has been in accessible art for a much wider audience.   The “authentic” experience that a certain number of tourists are now looking for is readily accessible in St. Petersburg and in parts of Miami.  The Wynwood Arts District is rapidly maturing in Miami and several districts have emerged in St. Petersburg that allows the visitor a more authentic experience that isn’t created, such as was the artists studios at the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine or the concentration of museums in some cities.

And while it is always up to the artist to sell his or her art, there are quickly becoming areas in the state that are more conducive to this.  And as always in Florida, it is seasonal.  It is up to the state’s tourism marketing organization and the respective county tourist development councils and convention and visitors bureaus to use the arts districts to attract more like-minded tourists and to direct those who are possibly secondarily interested in the arts to these districts.

Second Saturday Art Walks in St. Petersburg have become increasingly popular with tourists and residents.  Many other tourist destinations use this concept to promote the arts.

Second Saturday Art Walks in St. Petersburg have become increasingly popular with tourists and residents. Many other tourist destinations use this concept to promote the arts.

Where Henry Flagler knew that there was a demand and clustered artists around a number of studios in the back of the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine, our present day promoters of tourism, myself included, must make it easy for our visitors to find the artists and their works.

Art galleries, shows, festivals, arts centers, artist cooperatives, pop up exhibitions, and artist studios have all become part of the tourist experience in some parts of Florida.  To succeed in attracting more tourists who are prone to not only visit cultural attractions, buy locally-produced art we must target those tourists and let them know what the experience of visiting may include and that is art.  There are thousands of tourists that come through Florida’s cruise ports and a percentage of them all buy prints of art on cruise ships during art auctions.  They could easily be buying original pieces from Florida artists.

Many cities and towns in Florida have arts centers including Delray Beach.

Many cities and towns in Florida have arts centers including Delray Beach.

We must target the people who are most likely to buy art and spend time in our destinations.  Today, it is even more easy to focus on this with the demographic and psychographic information available combined with the myriad of distribution channels to reach these people.  For example, a number of articles have appeared recently speaking to the growing and flourishing arts scene in St. Petersburg.  These writers likely were reached through Twitter, blogs, websites and Facebook postings in some way.  Their articles then further reach yet more people and eventually a reputation as an arts center develops amongst those who are inclined to visit arts destinations.  Advertising messages also can be directed to these audiences and those responsible for marketing to visitors have access to make this happen.

It is important to look at the history of arts and tourism marketing to be able to understand how to move forward.  The essence of tourism marketing vis-a-vis the arts is to convince people to visit and buy art.  This is done through reaching those most likely to visit with your message.  Any destination can do this and with the right resources, can do it better than it is doing presently.

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How St. Petersburg became the cultural center of the west coast of Florida – Part 3

The Product takes shape

As mentioned earlier, there are the core cultural facilities such as museums that were the original focus of cooperative marketing, but as non-profit galleries and for-profit galleries developed or were recognized for their importance in creating a destination, these were included. The performing arts facilities were also included as were events as witnessed in the Artworks! Festival material.

I remember going to Tampa with David Blackman to look at this float for the Festival of States parade to promote the then-five downtown Museums.  We all participated but I recall the woman from the Museum of History having mole crickets run up and down her hoop skirt during the parade.  It was a lot of effort and collectively we figured it would be more cost-effective to focus on doing other cooperative things.  This was about 1994.

I remember going to Tampa with David Blackman to look at this float for the Festival of States parade to promote the then-five downtown Museums. We all participated but I recall the woman from the Museum of History having mole crickets run up and down her hoop skirt during the parade. It was a lot of effort and collectively we figured it would be more cost-effective to focus on doing other cooperative things. This was about 1994.

The secondary product in the cultural arena was the antiques malls and the bookstores that also contributed to attracting visitors. Some of the tertiary product included the Pier, the area hotels, parks, architecture, restaurants and the like; but we recognized that all of these elements were needed to create a true cultural destination.

The article in the Sarasota newspaper states "St. Petersburg is bragging - again. And with good reason - again."  Museums Month focused on the great destination that could be created by combining forces among the museums to highlight the city as a cultural destination.

The article in the Sarasota newspaper states “St. Petersburg is bragging – again. And with good reason – again.” Museums Month focused on the great destination that could be created by combining forces among the museums to highlight the city as a cultural destination.

Another factor was people. There really needed to be people and pedestrian traffic in a safe environment. Many of the neighborhoods surrounding the downtown area had become magnets for prostitution and drug dealing and included many vacant and boarded up houses and former rooming houses. But this is the subject of another section on neighborhoods that is covered next.

Neighborhoods

Many of downtown St. Petersburg’s neighborhoods had become infested with outdated housing stock, drug dealers and prostitutes along with homeless people and petty crime. This type of environment keeps visitors away. It is also not a place most people interested in cultural life would live. Nonetheless, several groups of citizens started working on improving these neighborhoods that bordered the downtown area early on, notably in the Vinoy Park, Old Southeast and Round Lake neighborhoods.

Frequently these groups were at odds on how to best improve the area, with some wanting higher density, others wanting low density, and both groups with a somewhat antagonistic approach to City Hall in this author’s opinion.

The Round Lake area expanded its scope to include four other in-town neighborhoods which eventually became known as the Uptown Neighborhoods comprised of Round Lake, the southern part of Crescent Lake, Euclid and the St. Anthony’s area.  It was not until David Fischer became mayor at the same time as a change in city charter to strong mayor from city manager form of government happened at the same time that something seriously happened that would have an impact on downtown St. Petersburg for many years to come.

The first new-construction home in the downtown area for many years was built just north of the Round Lake area in what is now broadly known as Uptown.  This picture was taken for the St. Petersburg Times showing National Night Out Against Crime where the two community police officers from the Uptown neighborhoods attended along with others in the neighborhood to celebrate the new home being built at 1022 Eighth Street North.

The first new-construction home in the downtown area for many years was built just north of the Round Lake area in what is now broadly known as Uptown. This picture was taken for the St. Petersburg Times showing National Night Out Against Crime where the two community police officers from the Uptown neighborhoods attended along with others in the neighborhood to celebrate the new home being built at 1022 Eighth Street North.

The day after the elections Dave Fischer called me into his office and Operation Commitment was started, focusing every city effort on the Uptown Neighborhoods in a test that proved successful at cleaning this area up, raising the property values and increasing the tax base for St. Petersburg. It was officially announced in May, 1993.  New construction followed and new commercial activity started to happen in an area that was all but considered a crime haven.  It also provided a safe and upcoming neighborhood for the professionals moving to the area due to the cultural attractions and emerging growth climate of downtown.

Other neighborhoods followed in the coming years but this was the first effort that was truly a citywide effort to clean up a targeted neighborhood. There were no stops pulled with all city departments being active and much work being done in concert with the neighborhood associations. With nicer neighborhoods, the city was able to attract better paying jobs, enhanced cultural facilities and provide better housing for those who were coming into the city to work.

Further contributing to St. Petersburg’s commitment to the neighborhoods was the appointment of a Neighborhood Czar, Mike Dove, and staff. The Council of Neighborhood Associations developed a Neighborhood Leadership Program about the same time that was modeled after the successful Leadership St. Petersburg.

There were many other things that contributed to St. Petersburg’s neighborhood improvements, from the passing of legislation to allow a Nuisance Abatement Board and grants to plant more trees, to the efforts of neighborhood activist and architect Tim Clemmons’ pushing the allowance of sidewalk cafes.

Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber’s involvements included the neighborhoods as Rick Baker, then president of the Chamber, helped coordinate and start this program with the first meeting being in the home of Jon and Hilary Clarke. I attended along with Dave Prior from the Uptown Neighborhoods. This program helped develop leaders for the neighborhoods and continues today.  Rick was also instrumental in showing the efforts of the Uptown Neighborhoods groups work to future governor of Florida Jeb Bush.  I remember a homeless man walking through the park with a twelve-pack of Bush beer.  Jeb made a comment about the beer to him as he passed and said just like the President.  The homeless man said yeah, and he has a brother in Florida who is running for Governor.  This was 1992 long before Jeb was widely known.

The Chamber was also instrumental in assisting with the Artworks! Festival previously mentioned. The president, Paul Getting, provided the office space and infrastructure to allow the chamber to become the umbrella organization for the festival and it was all done very inexpensively.  The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce recognizes importance of culture in a 1995 publication that can be viewed by clicking the link.

In addition, several museums worked with the St. Pete Beach Chamber, and Penny Mathes its director, whom we sent on a joint sales mission to South America in the early 1990s.  The beach chamber was the one focused on tourism.

The Dali Museum also participated in a sales mission to Brazil when that market was emerging by sending Portuguese-speaking docent Charlotte Smythe. This was done in conjunction with the then-Tampa Hillsborough Convention and Visitors Bureau and really helped lead the way for South American tourists to the area who in turn visited museums and discovered the concentration of culture in the downtown. It was after some of these grass roots efforts that the sales arm of the Pinellas County TDC (Discover Florida’s Suncoast) started to focus on this market and eventually hired a South American representative.

The chamber also helped contribute to the positioning of St. Petersburg in its visitor guide, and the tourist information centers soon were distributing materials that promoted all the museums and cultural facilities.

Government’s Role

While the thrust of changing St. Petersburg came from within, the assistance of various governmental agencies certainly contributed and the individuals involved were a great reason why. The Pinellas County Arts Council, under the directorship of Judith Powers Jones, was always available to help and provided small grants to organizations. But, like the CVB was a county organization and the promotion of one area over another wasn’t good policy.  The city also contributed significantly by co-sponsoring events that allowed for police, fire and trash removal as an in-kind donation to the event.  And as I mentioned before, Anita Treiser with the city, had a passion and a vision that was shared by the core group of people who worked to position St. Petersburg as a cultural destination.

New product development grant money was available and the museums applied as a group.  It took some coaxing and there was still some push-back that bed tax money shouldn't be spent promoting cultural attractions in downtown St. Petersburg. But it passed and this black and white scan shows a little of the brochure that was produced focusing on the seven downtown St. Petersburg museums.

New product development grant money was available and the museums applied as a group. It took some coaxing and there was still some push-back that bed tax money shouldn’t be spent promoting cultural attractions in downtown St. Petersburg. But it passed and this black and white scan shows a little of the brochure that was produced focusing on the seven downtown St. Petersburg museums.

In addition, a city staff member, Anita mentioned above, was assigned to assist the museums and form a group that met periodically to discuss matters of common concern. The city also assisted with Museum Month by printing collateral on the city’s presses, promoting museums through the city television channel and water bill inserts.

The City of St. Petersburg was one of the few cities to provide financial support to the arts in 1992 with $225,446 in its budget as a line item to be granted to 21 cultural organizations.

Continued in Part 4

How St. Petersburg became the cultural center of the west coast of Florida – Part 2

A Cultural Destination takes aim

With four museums in downtown St. Petersburg operating in the late 1980s it was critical to help create a destination out of what existed. Even the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) did not include a lot of information about the museums in its promotional material in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In fact, I remember quite clearly being told by then-director of the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council (the precursor to the CVB), Bill Sheeley, who asked me “why on earth would people leave the beaches to visit a museum in downtown St. Petersburg?”  It was shocking to say the least but it was the thought by virtually everyone in the hospitality industry at that time.

A 1998 advertisement in a tourist guide promotes the cultural diversity of downtown St. Petersburg in a cooperative effort among museums and galleries.

A 1998 advertisement in a tourist guide promotes the cultural diversity of downtown St. Petersburg in a cooperative effort among museums and galleries that was coordinated by the museums and iniated by them.  The sales reps and owners of these publications shared our understanding of creating a destination.  Specifically SEE Magazine and Darlene Kole; Chuck and Jim Wray with CJ Publishers and Drake Decker with Florida Suncoast Tourism Promotions.

A lot of work had to be done.  The international significance of the Dali Museum was the sole draw for me in taking the position as the first marketing director.  That those in charge of promoting tourism internationally didn’t recognize the potential was disappointing.  But we soldiered on in our work.

The growth of the international market for Pinellas County in tourism, a change in leadership and the interest in the Salvador Dali Museum’s increasing international tourism figures, led to the CVB being interested in, first, the draw of the Dali Museum, specifically with German visitors, and second, the cultural scene in general in St. Petersburg which was favored by tourists who were looking for a more cultural experience.

The late 1980s also saw a lot of crime and downtown store closings in St. Petersburg which was late in its downtown decline compared to a lot of cities. Understanding that the Dali Museum opened in 1982 and Great Explorations adjacent to it in 1988, it was only natural for the two museums to cooperate to attract visitors to the south side of downtown St. Petersburg. This became the start of cooperative marketing in St. Petersburg.

It was during this time also that the Downtown Core Group – a grass roots organization – started promoting events and shopping plus a group called Common Ground – a group that consisted of the major downtown marketing directors – started the First Fridays events.  The first First Friday was an experiment to see if anyone would stay downtown after 5 PM on a Friday.  I remember pulling beer taps that night with Toni Tassoni from the Pier and others to a crowd of about 100 people.  And that might be on the high side.  We were thrilled.

But as late as 1995, I recall speaking with a friend who was hired to handle marketing and sales for the Florida International Museum. She was from Boston, and asked me when we were speaking about downtown, “where are all the people?” Clementine Brown, who is a pioneer in cultural tourism in Massachusetts, became a dear friend and colleague as we worked toward the common goal of letting people know what downtown St. Petersburg really had to offer but I get ahead of myself by a few years.

Early Cooperative Marketing

There has been cooperative marketing in the cultural attractions for many years across the state of Florida.  There have been attractions associations at local and regional levels whereby attractions cooperated with brochures and certainly at the state level when, in 1949, a group of attractions formed the Florida Attractions Association.  But museums in Florida at that time really were in their infancy and were best represented by the Ringling Museum and its Circus Galleries and the Lightner Museum of Hobbies.  I will write more on the state level for another article.  Back to St. Petersburg and museums in particular.

The first cooperative marketing among the museums, took place in 1990 when friendship struck up between Mary Lee Hanley, director of marketing for Great Explorations, and myself, then director of marketing at the Dali Museum. We both had major announcements and both believed that downtown St. Petersburg had so many of the elements of a great cultural destination but that they really weren’t linked. In early 1990, stationery was created that linked the two facilities as the “Museums of Bayboro,” named for the Bayboro Harbor that both were next to.

One of the earliest pieces of cooperative work between the museums of St. Petersburg was this joint press reception under the banner of The Museums of Bayboro between the Dali Museum and Great Explorations in 1991.

One of the earliest pieces of cooperative work between the museums of St. Petersburg was this joint press reception under the banner of The Museums of Bayboro between the Dali Museum and Great Explorations in 1991.

It more than likely started on a cocktail napkin, but nonetheless, we were off and running with our cooperative marketing and joint press release that included an offer of a media familiarization tour to include the Dali Museum’s new purchase of a major painting that was being unveiled and the announcement of a new exhibition at Great Explorations.

The media mission included a recommendation to “include the Museum of Fine Arts, P. Buckley Moss Gallery, Florida Craftsman Gallery, The Arts Center and The Pier, all within minutes of Bayboro Harbor.” If I recall, these were selected due to their uniqueness in St. Petersburg and their cultural focus.

We were fortunate to have Karen Smith, who was the travel writer for the Fort Myers daily newspaper who produced a nice piece on the openings and St. Petersburg. Our goal was always to promote the museums but to ensure the destination was treated as a cultural one with Smith and the other journalists who attended this press event.

Another cooperative effort, this time under the umbrella of the Chamber of Commerce, was the Artworks! Festival. Organized by a friend, Kathleen Pazourek, this festival in 1991 included some great artwork from Phillip Gary Design, a local design firm whose owners, David Meek and Jeff Papa, were extremely talented graphic artists. The event included the American Stage in the Park Shakespeare series, a Kid’s Art Festival, A celebration of Salvador Dali’s birthday, the Mainsail Art Show, a music concert and Art Express which was a gallery hop of 14 museums and galleries. This festival helped people to understand the large number of cultural attractions and facilities that already existed in St. Petersburg.

Another small, but significant piece, was the creation of a generic pamphlet entitled “Downtown St. Petersburg, The Heart of the Arts in Tampa Bay,” which was produced by the Dali Museum and included other arts organizations along with a map of downtown St. Petersburg. It was printed at no charge by the local Sir Speedy print shop. This became a piece that was included in all the Dali Museum press packets and distributed to travel writers and travel agents as the Dali continued to expand its marketing to become a global entity. This was the first printed piece that included all the museums of St. Petersburg and had distribution beyond the city’s limits.

The Artworks! flyer, as simple as it was, created a focus on the arts through events in downtown St. Petersburg in 1991.  This piece was inserted into cable bills.  The flyer to the right, which was produced on various neon paper, was produced at no cost to any of the arts organizations and was distributed through Dali Museum press packets and group tour operator packets in addition to other outlets and highlighted the concentration of the arts facilities in downtown St. Petersburg.  It was used by the Dali Museum as a sales tool to bring in groups and promote the city to travel writers as early as 1990.

The Artworks! flyer, as simple as it was, created a focus on the arts through events in downtown St. Petersburg in 1991. This piece was inserted into cable bills. The flyer to the right, which was produced on various neon paper, was produced at no cost to any of the arts organizations and was distributed through Dali Museum press packets and group tour operator packets in addition to other outlets and highlighted the concentration of the arts facilities in downtown St. Petersburg. It was used by the Dali Museum as a sales tool to bring in groups and promote the city to travel writers as early as 1990.

In 1993, the first Museum Month was developed and was a cooperative effort among the Dali Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Great Explorations and the Museum of History. It involved friends and colleagues: Mary Lee Hanley, David Blackman, Don Baldwin, Anita Treiser and I.

The first Museum Month in 1993 is celebrated at City Hall with Mayor David Fischer, Michael Milkovich (Museum of Fine Arts), Mary Wyatt Allen (St. Petersburg Museum of History), Wayne Atherholt (Dali Museum), Eileen Smith (Great Explorations) and Anita Treiser with the City of St. Petersburg.

The first Museum Month in 1993 is celebrated at City Hall with Mayor David Fischer, Michael Milkovich (Museum of Fine Arts), Mary Wyatt Allen (St. Petersburg Museum of History), Wayne Atherholt (Dali Museum), Eileen Smith (Great Explorations) and Anita Treiser with the City of St. Petersburg.

Anita was with the City of St. Petersburg and was instrumental in making this happen as the city agreed to print the brochures that were used to promote the event. Each of us had committed to making sure downtown St. Petersburg was a success and the success of downtown St. Petersburg was essential to the institutions we served.  Here is a link to a Museum Month brochure from 1995.

A press release from 1995 publicizing Museum Month in downtown St. Petersburg.

A press release from 1995 publicizing Museum Month in downtown St. Petersburg.

The tasks were divided up, usually at a happy hour somewhere downtown.  And back then the selection of places for happy hour consisted of about four locations.  Someone took on the job of compiling the events, creating and distributing press releases, creating a poster and brochure, faxing information sheets to area hotels and other tasks to make the first “Sunsational Museums Month” a success and gain publicity for the fact that there were four excellent museums all located in downtown St. Petersburg.  Keep in mind this was all done before the internet.  We had word processors and fax machines in those earlier days.

Continued in Part 3

Another cooperative effort for Museum Month was sponsored by USAir.

Another cooperative effort for Museum Month was sponsored by USAir (Nell Iba, a friend from my airline days helped on this) and the St. Petersburg Times.  We also got a hotel stay that was coordinated by the Stouffer Vinoy Resort that had just opened in St. Petersburg.

Continued in Part 3