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Art takes a ‘Gasp!’ on Friday


After the armada of pirate schooners sailed into Tampa Bay in February, the annual Gasparilla invasion once again left behind colorful beads that littered the streets and an array of artistic events and festivals in the region.

But this year, Creative Loafing and the Tampa Museum of Art have partnered to present an event called “Gasp!” that synthesizes all Gasparilla festivals.

David Warner, editor-in-chief of Creative Loafing, said the idea began as a conversation between the local publication and the museum.

“The museum was interested in expanding its event profile and we were interested in doing a multidisciplinary performing arts event,” he said. “This opportunity to work with the museum actually led us to think ‘Well, this would be great because it’s in the month of all these other Gasparilla festivals that take place — there’s music, there’s movies and visual art, but there are no performing arts festival.”

The event, which will take place Friday from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Tampa Museum of Art, is intended to be “the last ‘gasp’ of Gasparilla,” Warner said.

Featuring local, emerging artists whose acts range from “traditional” to “edgy,” the comedy acts, painting, sideshow acts, dancing and improv acts are intended to provide guests with a “smorgasbord of the arts,” he said.

Some of the events will be announced by Ward Hall, colloquially referred to as “King of the Sideshows,” and well known for his enthusiastic, introduction of circus acts.

Timothy Baker, a research associate of Graphicstudio, the USF-based artist’s printmaking workshop, will be at Gasp! to demonstrate the printmaking process, creating book covers for local poets’ and writers’ books.

“I’ll be using a wooden block that has the mold of the image that will go on the cover and I’ll apply ink to go through the etching machine,” he said. “We’re actually in the process of getting everything ready right now.”

Considering it is the first year of Gasp!, Warner said the turnout and outcome is hard to predict. He speculates anywhere between 200 and 500 guests will attend, and that the attendance will be staggered, because some may want to see a few acts, while others will want to stay for the entire duration of the event.

“We tried to pick people that we know are really strong and talented performers, but some will be surprises,” he said. “Hopefully people will see as much of it as possible. Prepare to be surprised. I know I’m preparing to be surprised.”

Students gain free entry with their student ID. General admission costs $10 when purchased tonight before midnight, and will be $15 the day of at the door. VIP admission, which will include a meal and admission, costs $50 in advance and $60 on Friday.