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Artists come to Cuban Club's rescue

Volunteer help to restore the neoclassical grandeur is on the way.

By ALEXANDRA ZAYAS, Times Staff Writer
Published November 30, 2007



Sitting in the historic Cuban Club for a MAD Theatre of Tampa performance of Hair earlier this year, artist Jeff Monsein couldn't take his eyes off the faded, ornate details of the 1918 neoclassical theater.

"The detail that's in there is such a surprise," Monsein said. "It looks very much like the Tampa Theatre on a small scale. But it was not in very good condition."

What if he could restore the colors to their former glory?

Monsein called the Cuban Club to inquire. Turned out, an old friend, Robert Valdez, was the director of its foundation.

Valdez told him that the club had a $300,000 grant to restore the theater, but that structural work - electrical, fire code, staircase repair - took precedence over decorations.

Monsein would do the artwork for free, he said. He rounded up 22 area artists to work on ornate moldings and all of the details surrounding the stage.

"Our first job will be to remove the peeling paint and secure the surfaces," he wrote in an e-mail to his friends. "Then, we will begin the meticulous job of painting the details in the rich colors and patterns appropriate to the time."

Monsein owns Splat Paint in South Tampa, and his portfolio includes murals, finishes, frescos, portraits, decorative plaster and embossed metal work. Recently, Splat Paint was selected by the staff of ABC's Extreme Makeover Home Edition to provide artistic finishes for the new Tate family home on Davis Islands.

He's excited about being a part of restoring the Cuban Club, which Monsein calls a "hidden gem." Valdez says the club's board is "thrilled to death."

"We would never be able to get that painting done, not only with this grant but possibly with the next grant if we're lucky to get another one," Valdez said. "Jeff's stepping up was just a really pleasant surprise for us."

The Cuban Club board will select a contractor in December and expects to begin construction on the structural renovations in January at the club on 2010 Avenida Republica de Cuba.

Monsein said if construction goes according to schedule, his crew of artists will begin work in February or March, and could be finished within two or three weeks.

He is looking for eight more volunteers, who would bring his team up to 30.

"You don't even have to be an artist to help," Monsein said. "Just someone who wants to do something good for our community and have some fun at the same time."

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at or 226-3354.



To help

If you want to volunteer time or money to restore the artistic details of the Cuban Club theater, contact Splat Paint's Jeff Monsein at 253-3700.


[Last modified November 29, 2007, 07:46:42]

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