Santaella Studios resides in West Tampa, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. Some of the buildings around here just look old, but upon closer inspection they exude a certain charm. The great Santaella was once a cigar factory – one of the largest in the city. During their heyday, between 1918 and 1919, Santaella produced over 45 million cigars. Their customers included Winston Churchill and Babe Ruth.
The building was converted to studio space in 1997, years after the cigar factory had closed its doors, and the number of resident artists gradually increased over the years from 2 to the current 37. Collectively, they became the Santaella Studios for the Arts in 2012.
Inside, the place is transformed. Art lines the hallways, punctuated by busy studios where paint splatters the walls and unfinished works stand on easels.
Last night the place was buzzing with activity on account of the Santaella Studios for the Arts annual fundraiser. Trucktoberfest was in the parking lot serving Bavarian food, Time for Wine was selling beer and wine inside, and the sounds of piano and jazz vocals sifted through the halls. Inside the studios, artists chatted with friends and introduced themselves to newcomers.
Attending this open house, I was introduced to many great local artists whose work I hadn’t seen before. I saw Kerry Vosler’s portraits in oil, Sara Hull’s beach scenes, Rick Reeve’s Civil War art, Christine Reynolds‘s and Kerrick Williams‘s photography; I revisited Debra Radke‘s work and saw her new sheep series; and I discussed paint splatter with Stephen Holm. It was a busy night.