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Members venture outside box in Art Center's 'Cubed'

By LENNIE BENNETT

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 30, 2000


What fun to peruse the annual Members Show at the Arts Center and see names next to works by people I know in their other lives, not as artists.

I'm thinking, for example, of David and Chelley Tighe (also, incidentally, new owners of Junkasaurus Rex, which they bought at an Arts Center auction for their back yard) who filled a glass cube with all kinds of things and called it, cryptically, Wish I'd Spent More Time at the Office; Anne Von Rosenstiel, who painted a bright still life of flowers; Kally Harvard, whose vibrant acrylic entitled Calise's Clutter 2 put me in mind of the disorder of my closets were I to interpret them impressionistically; portraits by Jane Peppard and Beverly Abell; and clay works that deceived the eye -- a horse with a glaze that made it look like metal by Martha Kehm and a "basket" made of coils that looked like woven fiber by Lenne Nicklaus-Ball.

During the opening reception, the gallery spaces were as loaded with people as art, so we had to squeeze in and around to see the interpretations of the show's theme, Twelve Cubed, which required all work to be no larger than 12 inches in any dimension.

Welcoming artists and guests were executive director Evelyn Craft and board president Sean Manning. Nearby, Beth Manning, who created a wonderful, leaf-capped teapot for the show, chatted with Debbie Hogan. Mary Ann Tarranto was solo as husband Tony was returning from his second Carnegie Hall piano concert performing his own compositions. Also seen in the crowd were Fran Risser, Dorothy Webb and Cliff Page, Paula Williams and Donna Fletcher. Craft said next year's theme will be water, "and I hope we don't flood the galleries," she said.

The Arts Center is one of a string of interesting shops and galleries in the Central Avenue area between about Fifth and Eighth streets at which you can find respite from the summer heat.

I liked the garden sculptures in the Shapiro Studio and Gallery, the Fifties-retro feel of the Fusion Gallery next door and Florida Craftsmen, where I admired the collection of colorful baskets by Susan Monde and turned wood bowls and vases by Lawrence Hasiak. New to me was 531 Central that had a collection of large metal sculptures of women by Vincent Magri that sway and bob as you walk around them. I happened on photographer Herb Snitzer (who just returned from California, where he and painter Carol Dameron visited his two daughters) delivering slides for an upcoming show, and Karen Haraminac, who tells me John Entwhistle of the rock group the Who will open a show of his own pen and ink drawings on Sept. 27, while he is in the area for a Who concert.

* * *

Goodbye to All That: In an essay from her collection Slouching Toward Bethlehem, Joan Didion writes, "It's easy to see the beginnings of things and harder to see the ends." In the case of the Publix at 4350 Sixth St. S, Saturday's expected closing is more decisive than many endings and has been met with neighborhood consternation and lamentation, for both practical and sentimental reasons.

Last week I visited the store, which I well remembered from my childhood.

In the early 1960s, I rode my bike past it every day on my way to and from Lakewood Elementary School. The impact of its advent in our lives was such that our teachers added "public" to our spelling lists so we would not confuse a real word with some corporate aberration in neon lights.

Grocery shopping suddenly had glamor and excitement: Aisles were lined with more kinds of cereals, cookies, crackers and cake mixes than I had ever imagined. Coolers stretched the length of the store filled with pre-cut beef, pork and poultry. A bakery was stocked with pastries, cakes and pies. Refrigerated cases held milk, eggs, butter and ice cream. Publix changed our neighborhood and our lives in ways that seemed universally good.

I gave no thought to Mr. Carlisle, the kindly man who ran a small grocery and produce store next to Munch's, who must have seen with dismay his business evaporate as even his staunchest loyalists forsook his limited bins of vegetables for the seductive arrangements stacked in profusion at Publix.

At my house, the thrice-weekly visits of the nice delivery man from Foremost Dairy became two, then one, because it was so much more convenient to nip over to Publix for a pint of cream. At some point, he stopped coming altogether.

We needed less often the services of the butcher at the meat market, who required us to know what we wanted and to wait while he cut and wrapped it, because at Publix we could cruise the meat department and make spur-of-the-moment menu changes based on the choices at hand.

And if the old banyan tree which we all clambered around after school, as did my father and his friends before me, had to be cut down to make room for Publix's asphalt parking lot, well, there were other trees to climb. Weren't there?

"This is a change for the worse," said a man standing outside the store last week, exhorting us to sign a protest petition which I declined to do.

I do not not remember a decrial of any kind over the arrival of Publix in 1958 and the changes it wrought. No one circulated petitions on behalf of Mr. Carlisle or the delivery man or the butcher.

The petition man stood near the spot where I remember the banyan tree once grew. As we spoke, I looked across Sixth Street, to Lakewood Elementary School. The school that I, my brothers and my father attended, was gone. The Mediterranean-style building with large windows, dark, cool hallways and high ceilings had been replaced by a new, big, air-conditioned facility.

"Change is only something else, something different," I said. "It isn't, in and of itself, better or worse."

"Do you want this Publix to leave?" he asked.

"Couldn't say," I answered.

* * *

Here is something nice: Ann Foster, chairwoman of February's Queen of Hearts Ball, said that more than $50,000 was raised at the party and distributed to the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Suncoast and the American Lung Association for asthma programs for children.

The news is that ball committee member Connis Whitehead and her daughter-in-law Pam Berger were responsible for reeling in another $2,000 for the agencies from the Wal-mart Foundation. On Thursday, Wal-mart representative Nancy Lavan presented a check for $1,000 to Carl Lavender, executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs (the American Lung Association has already received its money).

* * *

Time is drawing near: Please send information now about social events for the fifth annual On the Town Calendar, to be published in late August or early September. It will list parties and fundraisers for the year. Send event, date, time, place, cost and a contact name and phone number to Lennie Bennett, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, fax to 893-8675 or e-mail to lennie@sptimes.com.

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