LARGO — As the region takes on the moniker of “Arts Coast,” Creative Pinellas, the county’s arts agency, is playing a crucial role in helping to shape the local arts environment. Last March, writer, producer and journalist Jake-ann Jones received the Creative Pinellas Artist Laureate Grant along with the Professional Artist Grant.
Creative Pinellas recognize the Artist Laureate as a model partner and collaborator, sharing their skills and expertise and supporting the organization’s mission throughout the grant period.
“I definitely saw this as an ambassador position; as I saw it, my job was to introduce more Black and Brown folks to Creative Pinellas, and vice versa,” noted Jones, a Harlem native who, after almost two decades in Tampa Bay, considers the area her adopted home.
Author of the Florence L. Tate biography “Sometimes Farmgirls Become Revolutionaries: Notes on Black Power, Politics, Depression, and the FBI,” Jones also works with local community organizations through the Social Justice Fund at Pinellas Community Foundation. A writer for The Weekly Challenger since 2018, for Jones, it was a natural fit to put her journalism skills to work in the online talk show format.
Jones’ year ends with the ninth episode of afroQuantum Experiences: ArtMaker Talk on Tuesday, March 21, from 7-8 p.m. – a special Woman’s Month program, streaming live on Facebook, YouTube and Twitch.
Past episodes of the program have included notable Tampa Bay women cultural producers such as theater artist and educator Andrida Hosey, artist and filmmaker Debbie Yati Garrett, artist Cora Marshall and poet Miesha Brundridge. Jones has amassed a stellar lineup of guests for her ninth talk to discuss making art and culture in today’s economy.
Episode 9 guests range from the legendary Jai Hinson of Artz 4 Life Academy to Lorielle Hollaway’s recent work in Black children’s literacy with Cultured Books Literacy Foundation and pop-up book store.
Cultural producers and entrepreneurs Sharlene Emmanuel Edwards and Shundra Allison of Power Plug Radio Entertainment, 2023 Natural Food Festival and Urban Drinkery (to note only three of the many projects the Gen X power-duo are involved in) and presenter Tiffany Moore of Moore Eventful Hall cross and toss multiple culture-production hats – and there’s always a bottom line to think of.
With the Motherland Music Festival coming up, the mother and daughters trio of Ancestral Funk – Melissa Cooper Roland, Siobhan Monique and Ashanti Dey — are weaving powerful spiritual wisdom, music, dance, healing and more into their April 22 family event at Williams Park. (Find information at www.ancestralfunk.com.)
“These women are culture-makers working in a difficult and fairly inhospitable economic landscape…to bring the community more of the healing art that energizes our souls and uplifts our spirit,” noted Jones.
A founding member of the nonprofit Pinellas Diaspora Arts Project, Jones worked with many guests over the last several years and said she only touched “the tip of the powerful legion of Black and Brown cultural producers in the area.”
Women including African American Heritage Association of St. Pete founder Gwendolyn Reese, The Weekly Challenger’s publisher Lyn Johnson, Terri Lipsey Scott of The Woodson, director/writer Erica Sutherlin, Uniquely Original Art Studio’s Catherine Weaver, Sandra Rooks and the Pinellas County African American Heritage Museum at The Curtis, Green Book of Tampa Bay’s Hillary Van Dyke – are also on that list of culture-makers. “And there’s an inspiring group of young women coming up right behind them,” she asserted.
When asked for advice for those looking to impact the local economy through arts, culture, and entertainment, Emmanuel shared, “Building great relationships with those sharing the same creative space is important to movement and longevity in the business. Also important is always to stay true to what vibes with you and aligns with your passions.”
Tiffany Moore noted, “One piece of advice would be to build a solid team of individuals with different strengths and talents.”
Melissa Roland advised, “Seek advice! Attempt to connect with collaborators within your community, both locally and on social media, and listen to their journeys. The amount of information that one can gain from someone else’s journey is unmatched and priceless.”
Grants are an essential part of the work Creative Pinellas does and are designed to recognize, fortify and help sustain the professional artists who live and work in Pinellas County.
“I am thrilled that we were able to partner with Jake-ann on producing afroQuantum Experiences: ArtMaker Talks,” said Creative Pinellas CEO, Barbara St. Clair. “These conversations created a space for leading artists, thinkers, critics and creators in the Black and Brown community to talk about the amazing work they are doing in Pinellas County.”
“We’re gearing up for the second Tampa Bay Afrofuturism Festival — and economics, the future of the Black and Brown economy, is a part of that conversation,” Jones shared. “These women have all profoundly impacted the arts and entertainment environment in a very challenging economic and cultural landscape for Black and Brown communities.”
Without state tax, Florida has much less funding than other states for arts and education. Jones expressed gratitude for the opportunities shared at Creative Pinellas and encourages Black and Brown artists to explore the organization’s grants as they navigate the cultural field.
“Our communities need to learn the avenues, partners and culture workers that are out there doing the work, as we all attempt to keep our rich artscape nurturing visionary talent,” Jones added.
Jones also developed a play, “AQ&REE: Brother Fire, Sister Fly,” during the fellowship year. The third staged reading is upcoming and will again be directed by Erica Sutherlin, another Creative Pinellas Artist Fellow.
afroQuantum Experiences: ArtMaker Talk Episode 9 will be live streamed March 21, 7 – 8 p.m.
For more on Creative Pinellas, go to creativepinellas.org.