New Cultural Alliance Could Have Big Impact

New Cultural Alliance Could Have Big Impact

For the better part of the past 10 years, elected officials and civic leaders have tried to bring public art projects to the City of Oldsmar.

Following many failed attempts, including a recent arrangement between the City and the University of South Florida, the Oldsmar City Council agreed last month to allow another USF art student to paint a mural that will tie into the city’s centennial celebration on the columns of the bandshell at R.E. Olds Park.

Despite past failures, the fruition of Oldsmar's first public art project could be happening at a perfect time, as a new nonprofit organization - the North Pinellas Cultural Alliance - has formed with the express intent of promoting arts, culture and history in North Pinellas communities.

"I'm honored that Oldsmar was chosen to be part of a brand new organization to support the arts in Pinellas County," Oldsmar City Council member Linda Norris said during an NPCA board meeting at the Oldsmar Council Chambers on Dec. 2.

"Being in the infancy stages of this organization is very exciting for me, because I want to promote art in Oldsmar."

That goal is exactly what NPCA founder Colin Bissett had in mind when he began contacting prospective board members concerning his idea about a year ago.

Bissett, a past president of the Clearwater Arts Alliance who also managed the Largo Cultural Center, said he believes communities in the North Pinellas area needed a unified organization that is focused on promoting arts and culture in this part of the county.

"I felt a need for an art alliance in this area,” Bissett said. “The St. Pete arts alliance is going like gangbusters with publicity and marketing, and I thought we needed one, to combine our forces, here."

That combination of forces has brought together a 'who's who' of public officials, artists, marketing whizzes and other experts in their fields, including Charlie Klein, Chairman of the Board of the Dunedin Fine Arts Center, Barbara Hubbard, Chair of the Fine Arts department at SPC-Seminole, and Clearwater sculptor J. Harrison Smith.

Members of the organization's advisory board include Norris, Oldsmar Marketing Specialist Debb Pauley, Safety Harbor artist Todd Ramquist, and DFAC Vice-President and COO, Ken Hannon, and their first order of business now that they have received the startup funding is to create a website, obtain members and work on promoting the alliance to various arts, cultural and historical organizations in the area.

"Because of this investment that the cities have made in us, it's imperative that we come through and give them value for their investment, and the taxpayers, of course, and provide them with the service of bringing arts, cultural and history to the communities," Bissett said.

Hannon, whose wife, Kris, works for the City of Oldsmar, said the new alliance, which recently received $20,000 in startup funding from six North Pinellas municipalities, including $2,000 from Oldsmar, said the NPCA should fill a void left by unsuccessful coalitions from the past.

"There's been a void in this area ever since the Pinellas County Art Council failed," Hannon said. "And nature abhors a vacuum."

"To bring any group to a cohesive vision is tough," he added. "But we need a cohesive voice in this area, so it makes sense to have an organization that is a center point for the arts here."

Norris, who has been a champion of public art throughout her six-year tenure on the council, concurred.

"I'm really excited to see an organization that will help bring everyone together for a common cause," she said.

"I mean, look how long it took us to get our first project off the ground!"