Talkin’ ’bout a revolution

An artistic revolution is occurring in the Tampa Bay area. Avant Garde, a group of young professionals at the Tampa Museum of Art, is introducing a concept fairly new to the Tampa Bay area – a credible art scene.

The artistic worker bees are collaborating to promote and introduce the museum to others within their demographic. If you have not yet caught the buzz surrounding the Tampa Museum of Art’s Avant Garde group, then it may be time to get in the loop.

The talented young artists curate events year-round in the Bay area. Their goal is to promote emerging local artists to others in the community, as well as to make their art accessible to the general public.

Nationally renowned artist and retired USF assistant professor of art Theodore Wujcik is among those praising the new-found art revolution going on in Tampa. His work is showcased in some of the most acclaimed museums in the country, such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of Art, both in New York City, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Chicago Institute of Art.

“The art scene in Tampa is sort of boiling over right now,” Wujcik said. “I have noticed this great trend of all these young, talented, skateboard-type kids putting their heads together and doing really great things. It’s fantastic.”

An evolving art scene in Tampa is something the city has been in dire need of. The Avant Garde members are perhaps the biggest contributors to that cause. Their novel and fresh spin on art is a propitious factor in helping Tampa to become a true cultural oasis. Avant Garde president Sarah Richter has made it her mission to support local artists.

Richter told Tampa Bay Media, “There are so many amazing young artists in the area, our goal is to help them live as working artists.”

This has not always been an easy feat. A recent study by the Arts Council of Hillsborough County found that one in five local artists does not have health insurance, two-thirds work second jobs unrelated to the field and more than half are unsatisfied with the stability of the arts business, according to

The Avant Garde crew is trying to change this. By dipping their hands into events all over Tampa, these aspiring artists are gaining substantial recognition. They are out there networking and hosting events open to the public. The events they curate are furthering their careers, as well as developing a credible and accessible art scene in Tampa.

It seems as though everything the group touches turns to gold. Last month, Avant Garde curated the final Art After Dark event at the soon-to-be-demolished Tampa Museum of Art. The last hurrah at the museum, titled retro/perspectives: Looking back, Looking forward, was a success, as art buffs, scenesters and average Joes of all ages filled every crevice of the museum.

The style of many of the young artists reflects a pop-continuum of music and culture and an all-around urban feel. They use a broad range of mediums and styles in their work, from acrylic on panels to screen printing to fashion.

USF alumnus and Avant Garde member Jay Giroux’s passion for skateboarding and street culture has been a huge inspiration for his style of artwork.

“Style is like underwear to me: Keep it fresh and new, but when you find a pair that fits real well, stock up,” Giroux said.

Kudos to Giroux not only for practicing good hygiene, but also for developing a style that has won him recognition in the Bay area. His work is showcased at events all around the city, as both collective installations with other Avant Garde members and solo exhibits. He is the recipient of the 2001 USF Contemporary Art Museum Grant, the 2002 USF Art Department Grant and the recipient of the 2006 Individual Artist Grant in Hillsborough County, according to

“I am very thankful to wake up everyday and create meaning with my life and Tampa has provided the platform and resources to make that happen,” Giroux said.