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Friday, Sep 19, 2014

Latest Artbook edition highlights St. Pete art, slashes price

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ST. PETERSBURG -

The Museum of Fine Arts is known for ancient Greek pottery, African masks and the work of Impressionist masters such as Claude Monet, but tonight the Beach Drive fixture comes alive with art from closer to home.

The museum will host the release party for the 2013 edition of Artbook Tampa Bay, a “coffee table book” for iPads and iPhones showcasing the work of 82 local artists.

For Artbook’s founders, tonight’s event is a way to elevate the project’s profile. And for the venue, the launch party is a way to bring in a younger, hipper demographic.

“These are younger artists. They are working with new media. It’s extremely, extremely diverse and really on the cutting edge,” said David Connelly, a spokesman for the museum. “The museum really wants to encourage contemporary art.”

This is actually the third installment of the Artbook app; the high number of submissions from local artists led to two volumes being released last year; but Artbook has struggled to find a broad audience, with just 337 sales so far. Hoping to boost that number, developers slashed the price from $9.99 to $1.99.

But Kevin Hohl, one of the project’s founders, said he doesn’t use sales to measure its success.

“The measure of success will be our live event,” he said or if a contributing artist manages to sell a piece through the project.

“I haven’t had that call yet from an artist that says ‘Somebody in Denmark saw my work in Artbook, and I just sold a $5,000 piece.’ We don’t have that story yet.”

In addition to the three volumes showcasing artists from Treasure Island to Valrico, two Artbook editions feature work from two different local art shows, while another features art from Austin, Texas. Similar projects for New York, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta and Cincinnati are in the works, Kohl said.

The project’s genesis came in late 2011, when HD Interactive, the software development firm Hohl works for, wanted to practice with new software. After kicking around some ideas, creating a platform where consumers could glimpse work submitted by local artists seemed an obvious choice.

After the first go-around, developers were criticized for not offering to pay participating artists and were accused of pocketing the proceeds.

“We’ve put $45,000 into it; we’ve made $1,600,” he said. “We’re not millionaires. We’re not making money off the art community.”

Long-term, Hohl said he would like to create a foundation or nonprofit organization to oversee the project and pay artists, once the startup costs have been recouped.

Photographer Velva Lee Heraty, who has seven photos in this year’s Artbook, said she doesn’t care about how much she might make. She wants to unify St. Petersburg’s art scene.

“There’s a tremendous amount of artists that go unrecognized in St. Pete,” she said. “I haven’t seen an overarching event that is inclusive like Artbook.”

Tonight’s event goes from 6 to 9 p.m. in the conservatory at the Museum of Fine Arts, 255 Beach Drive N.E. Admission is free, and $10 gets you into the rest of the museum. Some of this edition’s 82 contributors will paint live at the event, while other work will be on display on HD screens.

The latest Artbook is available at the iTunes store.


kbradshaw@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-7999

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