Come February, The St. Petersburg Celebration of the Arts will showcase the variety and renown of area artistry through one central topic: tolerance and acceptance. That means performances of The Crucible and The Merchant of Venice. A Florida Orchestra Coffee Concert entitled World on a String. A panel discussion of how St. Petersburg’s green benches — once a symbol of tourism and segregation — can spark a dialogue of unity in the Sunshine City and in the Tampa Bay Area.
Expect opera, conversation, exhibitions such as Spirit Lines: Helen Hardin Etchings, found at the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art. A read through the packed schedule offers a varied highlight list. There’s no question about it: St. Petersburg’s arts scene is thriving.
“Considering the modest size of St. Petersburg, we are one of the most attractive, culturally-oriented cities in America,” says Festival co-founder Michele Kidwell-Gilbert. “The depth and quality of our arts community is a cause for civic pride.”
A retired art history professor who heads the Archaeology Committee of the National Arts Club, Kidwell-Gilbert and her husband, Dr. Gordon Gilbert, are the organizers of The St. Petersburg Celebration of the Arts. The 29 total events associated with it are meant to foster collaboration in the arts community.
Last year’s festival encouraged riffs on all things Shakespeare and featured 23 programs and several museum installations. The topic selection isn’t top-secret: the Gilberts choose based on what has the potential to inspire. Next year’s theme, The Sea, is a homage to The Pier project and St. Petersburg’s peninsula.
“We try to be as inclusive as possible and invite all of St. Petersburg’s culturally-oriented groups to join,” Kidwell-Gilbert says. “A number of new participants this year resulted from suggestions by those involved in the previous year’s series as well as the forthcoming Tolerance and Acceptance theme.”
Everyone is invited. So take the kids to Peter and the Wolf — and be sure to point out the memorable bassoon part. Enjoy a chamber concert at The Palladium. And marvel at the many opportunities St. Petersburg offers for those who love the arts. You may even feel inspired to spread a message about tolerance and acceptance.