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Two Local Colleges Rock Downtown St. Petersburg With Art And Music Festival

Apr 24, 2019

On a recent Saturday morning in downtown St. Petersburg, residents near Williams Park were jolted awake by potent guitar riffs and an explosion of drums from Frostfang. The heavy metal band includes members who go to St. Petersburg College and USF St. Petersburg, making them the perfect act to open the Good Vibes Only Art and Music Festival.

SPC’s student government president for the downtown campus, Clifford Hobbs, proposed the all-day festival last summer. He said that in the past, the student government voted to throw a formal-style ball, and he wanted to do something different.

“And as one of the presidents, I just said, hey, instead of doing a ball, why don't we do a music festival?”

The SPC student government unanimously approved, and Hobbs got to work.

About three months into planning, Hobbs reached out to USF St. Pete’s student government to see if they wanted to collaborate. Their director of events, Livia Rosales, thought the festival presented a unique opportunity to exhibit the artistic talents of her school's students.

Right now, the waterfront campus doesn’t offer a formal art program, though developing one is under consideration for the distant future.

Just because the students aren’t studying art in a classroom setting, said Rosales, doesn’t mean they aren’t involved in creative pursuits. The city of St. Petersburg is touted as a hub for the visual, performing, and musical arts, and Rosales said the students take notice.

“Since we do live in the downtown community, we are very influenced by art and music. And we wanted to bring the students' talents into the community.”

ESQUE performs on the Main Stage at the Good Vibes Only Art & Music Festival
Credit Nicole Slaughter Graham / WUSF Public Media

Rosales and Hobbs met regularly for nine months to plan the event. They devised an application process for potential student musical acts and artists to participate in the festival. Together, they vetted and selected 10 musicians and 20 artists.

Hobbs intended to run the event like a professional art and music festival, which meant devising a budget to pay for a site, vendors, advertising and marketing. It also meant paying the student musicians who performed.

SPC and USF St. Petersburg came up with a budget of about $25,000. Of that budget, SPC’s student government chipped in $17,000 and USF St. Pete’s student government contributed $5,000. An SPC grant covered the rest.

Lewis Garcia, an SPC student who is studying music production and is also a freestyle rapper, was elated that he was chosen to perform, and finding out he’d be paid to do so was a welcome surprise.

“I was just honored to be picked,” he said. “It's an amazing thing too because, we're all students and struggling artists. And so the fact that they offer some cash to do this will help.”

Lewis is in the market for new production equipment. He said the payment from the festival will help him secure what he needs.

Visual artists from both colleges were also excited to be a part of the festival.

Jessica Amarillo, a USF St. Petersburg psychology and social work student, specializes in acrylic paint on canvas. She said being creative is a great outlet for her, and events like the Good Vibes Art and Music Festival give her the opportunity to indulge in her craft and share it with others.

“It's not something I'm pursuing as a career, but it’s something I know I have to do because it makes me really happy," she said. "And I mean it's really fun to come out to things like this and for people to appreciate my art. It feels really good.”

Alongside student artists and performers, the organizers also wanted the event to have a strong, St. Petersburg vibe, so they invited community staples to participate. 

The Nomad Art Bus, a well-known festival presence, rolled in with a blank, 40-foot canvas for festival goers to paint.

“At the end of the day, the bus is a manifestation of the events of the day,” said Carrie Boucher, the organization’s founding artist. “So everybody’s values, everybody’s beliefs… people paint on the bus what is important to them and what they love."

Aaron Tullo, a local mural artist, also participated. He designed an interactive art piece comprised of two canvases. Festival visitors used stencils and spray paint to create bright, geometric designs. At the end of the event, one canvas went to USF St. Petersburg, the other to SPC. 

“It's just a great opportunity to be able to interact with the community and be a part of both my alma maters-- St. Pete College and USF," Tullo said.

Hobbs estimated around 1,000 people attended—a big success for the first run.

SPC plans to make the festival an annual event with USF St. Petersburg. Next year, said Hobbs, they plan on inviting Eckerd College to collaborate as well.

Festival goers paint The Nomad Art Bus
Credit Nicole Slaughter Graham / WUSF Public Media