SouthShore Arts Council gears up for 2016

Published on: January 13, 2016


SouthShore Arts Council President Michael Parker.

SouthShore Arts Council President Michael Parker.

The SouthShore Arts Council has big plans for the New Year, and is looking for community participation to make them a reality.  Led by president and mural artist Michael Parker, the Arts Council will be soliciting community support from Riverview, Gibsonton, Apollo Beach, Ruskin, Sun City Center and Wimauma.

Plans for 2016 include re-establishing one of its most successful programs, which resulted in three monumental mural projects (“Head Heart and Hands,” “Seed to Bloom,”  and “Best Little Town”) and a nationally recognized community-based documentary film, South County.

“Our plan is to implement an ongoing program to continue producing these annual award-winning projects,” said Parker.  “There is great potential here in South Shore that we want to tap into.”

The SouthShore Art Council’s program seeks to connect experienced artists with community members to design and produce public art.   Parker anticipates creating things like community gateways, artistic benches and sculptures, spontaneous performances, parades, festivals and artworks honoring local history.

SAC’s current focus for 2016 is finding new funding sources for professional development grants, as well as fielding applications for artists who wish to enter the 2016 Manatee Festival of the Arts.  For the first time, the SouthShore Arts Council will team up with the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce to organize and judge the annual March festival.

“Our first order of business was to create an easier online application process for artists to enter the show,” said Parker.  The online application is now up and running and can be accessed through the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce website.

Plans for local projects are also underway, including creating artwork to enhance the bridge that will be constructed over the Ruskin Inlet from the Firehouse Cultural Center to the Ruskin Library.  Parker feels that local neighborhoods can benefit through art projects that help beautify and eliminate unkempt empty lots, graffiti, vandalism and weather-beaten industrial properties.

With numerous public works around Tampa Bay, Michael Parker has become not only a well-known artist, but a community leader as well.

With numerous public works around Tampa Bay, Michael Parker has become not only a well-known artist, but a community leader as well.

“We have some great members in SAC, but we are looking for more,” said Parker.  “There is nothing more rewarding than seeing people get involved in community art projects that enhance their own neighborhood.”

The SouthShore Arts Council oversees and administers the funding for these projects, advising on things like site selection, targeting participants, addressing a real community need, and choosing the right artist for the right neighborhood.  They help artists navigate through the logistics of budgeting, contracts and funding disbursements as well.

“Part of the reason I took on this leadership role was because of my experience with nonprofit funding and administration,” said Parker, who has long been a leader in developing community art projects in the Tampa Bay area and beyond. “South Shore is growing rapidly, and we strongly feel that the art and culture here should grow with it.”

With a current membership of 200, the SouthShore Arts Council actively supports activities in the visual arts, music, theater, dance, film and literature in the local area.  “We have some great people on our board of directors, and intend to add a few more for 2016,” said Parker.  With the help of current SAC Board Members Johanna Pol, Linda Smith, Nina Tatlock, Fawn Neun, Vicki Knauff and Doti Devane, Parker intends to seek partnerships with businesses willing to commit to matching funding through grants and fundraising activities.

With numerous public works around Tampa Bay, Parker has become not only a well-known artist, but a community leader as well.  He is a former art teacher at the University of South Florida, and continues to encourage students and communities to find their voice through the arts.

Sharing on the board is SAC member Vicki Knauff, who has been with the SouthShore Arts Council board for five years and served as president for three of those years.  Her background in health and physical education in Florida’s public school system has prepared her to work with both adults and students alike.  She is a guardian ad litem children’s advocate and a member of One Hundred Women Who Care.

Fiber artist Nina Tatlock started serving on the board of directors of the SouthShore Arts Council  in 2008. She has helped with eight years of Big Draw events and all aspects of SAC since becoming a member.

Linda Smith is a local mosaic and jewelry artist who has been a board member since 2013. Formerly from New York, Linda has been involved in several community mural and mosaic projects around the area, and has served on the Big Draw Planning Committee for the past three years.

Doti Devane runs Arianna’s Design & Consignment shop in Apollo Beach and is active in the music community in South County.  She is the lead singer for Kosmic Pearl and puts on many events and fundraisers to help nonprofits in the area.

The SouthShore Community Arts Council is open to anyone in the area who would like to become involved. New board members will be added at SAC’s January member’s meeting, which is open to the public. For more information, visit its website at or contact Michael Parker at