Arts coordinator aims at incorporating all creative forms

Published on: September 25, 2010



Michael Parker’s work and teaching was a big part of Ruskin’s first Big Draw, the event that led to painting murals on buildings in downtown Ruskin.

Following that, Michael went to Montana to teach art at the University of Montana, but has recently returned and his vision has taken on a whole new approach.Big-Draw-logo

“It’s no longer just the Big Draw for me. I have a real feel for this community,” he told me Sept 25. “I’ve been in contact with the South Shore Arts Council and many local artists, and my dream is to have an ‘open studio’ where people working in all art forms can meet and get together. People can come and go and try things out if they like. Many events and classes will be free. This way, groups can get together and do projects smaller than the big murals we produced. Maybe a club, school group, class or organization wants to improve a site. Or writers, painters and performing artists want to meet and talk and plan a real arts community. That’s what I feel for this town. That’s why I came back.” 

It’s a pretty big dream but if anyone can accomplish it, it’s Michael. Working together with the Council’s members and other local artists, he just may be able to pull it off.

He certainly has enough credentials.

The man who says he originally chose to move to Ruskin from Massachusetts after graduating from the University of Massachusetts because he likes to fish began his artistic endeavors here as soon as he arrived.

While earning a Master’s in Fine Arts at the University of South Florida, he built sets, scenes and backdrops for various area attractions, including Busch Gardens.

Now, at 33, he recognizes that his main interest is in acrylics because he loves fast and immediate color. “I like to see one go down right next to the other. I don’t like the waiting and drying process in oils,” he explained to me. “I like to paint, and paint over and over the same spot if I want.”

He lived in Tampa for awhile but settled on Ruskin in time to work on the first Big Draw in 2008. But then he was offered the position at the University of Montana.

He liked the job, but he missed this area.

“It has a feel that Montana doesn’t. There’s a culture here. A real history. And I love the diversity of people.”

So he’s back, and full of ideas.

Having worked (in Montana) with at-risk teens who have been in juvenile court, and with both adults and small children, he has decided everyone has a right to express themselves in whatever way they feel comfortable.

“Art forms are not all the same,” he said. “People need to be free to express themselves individually.”

His dream is to open the studio at 613 U.S. 41, Ruskin which acts as the hub for the annual Big Draw and use it as an anchor point for many events that go on all year. “Instead of giant projects, I want to see creation on a smaller scale. I want to give people a chance to have a sustainable arts program year-round.”

As the new Community Arts Coordinator appointed by the South Shore Arts Council Michael says Ruskin has given him a sense of place he did not have before. “There is such a unique identity here. I feel a real sense of belonging and know I want to commit to contributing to the community through the arts.”

The program he envisions will be a resource for all forms of artists; host community projects; events; support; and include all types of art forms.

To begin, he wants to open the studio every Thursday from 4-to-8 p.m. for a screen printing process. “People can come and go. Watch or try it,” he said. The use of the screen printer will be available for both teens (13 and up) and adults.

To find out more about Michael and his exciting programs, call (813) 846-2000 or email him at