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USF Contemporary Art Museum expanding to St. Petersburg

The College of The Arts and Contemporary Art Museum plan to have greater engagement with the St. Petersburg community through the build-out of Generator: USF Contemporary Art Museum. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/USF

The USF Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) is expanding to St. Petersburg to support technological and artistic engagement for students and the general public alike.

Consolidation has led to the USF College of The Arts renting a 3,100-square-foot space at The Factory St. Pete in the Warehouse Arts District.

The gallery, named Generator: USF Contemporary Art Museum, aims to highlight environmental issues, sustainability and social justice through contemporary artwork. Christopher Garvin, dean of the College of The Arts, projected that Generator should be officially open to the public in August 2022.

Generator’s gallery space is being rented out for $75,000 a year, according to Margaret Miller, director of the Institute for Research in Art. The rent is being covered by the city of St. Petersburg, which has pledged to fund it for the next three years.

The College of The Arts and CAM are currently finalizing building and rental contracts with the city of St. Petersburg and The Factory, Miller said.

“I’m hoping that we’ll start construction in the next few weeks and that the space will be ready for the first show by the beginning of the fall semester,” she said.

The build-out process is being funded by the St. Pete campus, Miller said. Other major supporters have been The Factory, Behar + Peteranecz Architecture Firm and the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership.

Generator was designed to be a post-consumption model, meaning that immersive time-based media and digital art, such as projectors, film and augmented reality will be showcased instead of material artworks.

By refraining from purchasing physical art pieces, Generator would remain environmentally conscious, Garvin said. Using art that can be accessed on a file rather than buying pieces and having them shipped to the gallery will allow CAM to reduce its carbon footprint.

“There’s not going to be a painting hanging on the wall, there’ll be an [digital] experience there. And we think that translates to generations other than mine,” Garvin said.

“Millennials and younger people, they understand the value of experience as much as just buying and consuming things. So it’s a new way to look at art.”

CAM curator of public art and social practice Sarah Howard said the expansion will not only provide St. Pete campus students with easier access to CAM, but will also provide them with work and internship opportunities.

Howard said the College of The Arts intends to incorporate educational programs, lectures, curator’s tours and other activities into Generator to engage students and the public in the artistic culture USF has to offer.

The first tentative artist to be featured in Generator following its opening is a Danish artist and activist collective called SUPERFLEX, according to Howard.

Most of SUPERFLEX’s work revolves around interspecies living and what humans can learn from animals to better manage the environment. Many of their pieces have taken the form of energy systems, beverages, sculptures, copies, hypnosis sessions, infrastructure, paintings, plant nurseries, contracts and public spaces.

“Their practice specifically blurs the lines between art, design, science and activism by using humor, play and imagination to offer creative perspectives for challenging global and social problems,” said Howard.

For Generator specifically, Howard was interested in SUPERFLEX’s research into how the marine environment can teach people to adapt their environments to survive the effects of climate change.

While nothing is set in stone yet, the College of Arts and CAM will be meeting with a SUPERFLEX representative to discuss future collaboration within the week.

Miller said that the CAM will also be showcasing local artists, and they are still considering their options.

“Our program at Generator will be a kind of combination of leading international artists, nationally known artists, and really good local artists,” she said. “We’re just getting there, getting it all organized but it’s pretty exciting.”

With all of the goals he and CAM have in mind for the gallery, he hopes that it will ultimately serve as an artistic unifier for USF and the local St. Petersburg community.

“The biggest part of this is we are putting our best foot forward and making our commitment to St. Petersburg, and to the community,” he said. “We’re inviting people on the campus, we’re inviting the community to be part of us… [College of Arts] really wants to be community leaders in this area, and we’re gonna keep working towards that. This is just the beginning.”