A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
By Evelyn Jiminez
For years, Ybor City was recognized for its abundance of unique art galleries that lined the historic brick streets. More recently, however, the city has been known for its nightlife attractions, from clubs and bars to concert venues and arcades. While the nightlife continues to thrive and grow, Ybor’s artistic spirit has ceased to be the giant that it once was. Now, local artists are taking a stand and fighting to keep Ybor City’s art and culture alive. The Ybor Art Walk by the Ybor Art Association is one vehicle by which local artists hope to revive the once flourishing art scene. The Ybor Art Association is a nonprofit organization that brings together the creative venues of Ybor City, helping them build business and attract other ventures to Ybor. One of its missions is the cultural and historic preservation of Ybor City. The first Saturday of every month from noon to 6 p.m., art lovers gather for this self-guided tour of Ybor City’s artistic spaces. By promoting art and culture rather than the bustling night-life, many hope to enliven the community as well as the economy. Walter Romeo, one of the founders of the Art Association, is aware of how, after the clubs pushed artists out of Ybor, “the art thing disappeared.” He said daytime in Ybor has always been slow. “The whole mission of the art walk is to promote daytime traffic, daytime retail business,” he said. He said another goal is to help Ybor’s local artists by encouraging visitors to buy their art. The Art Walk will feature several art galleries including the Arnold Martinez Art Gallery, with original art, prints and giclees of Ybor City and Tampa; Casa Lala Gallery, with paintings, ceramics and sculptures; Gallery 1707, with works by Ellen Marshall and Nels Johnson; Reax Space, a gallery/boutique featuring original artwork, fashions, prints and lifestyle accessories. Romeo suggested that people start the tour at the Ybor Art Colony at 1521 E. Seventh Ave., where they can pick up a map and walk in the studios while the artists work. “I think the highlight of the walk is the Ybor Art Colony here because it’s our anchor. There are more artists concentrated here in this building than anywhere else, it’s very unique,” Romeo said. This event could potentially help other businesses flourish since financial issues have forced the closing of several Ybor businesses including Starbucks, the International Bazaar and Art on 9th. Film major Sonia Rivera, 20, roams the many places there are to visit in Ybor and says they’re always deserted. “It would be a shame to see this historical and cultural center disappear,” she said. Many hope that the walk will inspire HCC students to do more in their community than just party. Daniel Venegas, 25, a pharmacy major, had no idea Ybor even had art galleries. “I thought Ybor City was just a place to party; I never knew it had so many other things to do,” he said. Romeo said the art walk is a work in progress. “It’s gradually getting bigger and better all the time,” he said.