Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Exciting Art from Behind the Iron Curtain.

I made an opportunity to re-visit the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts recently, and strongly recommend spending time with the Florida Collects Folk Art which is featured thru July 8, 2007. If you arrive at a time convenient to a docent tour .. take the tour ... the stories told about some of the various artists, styles, and works bring additional meaning to some of the over 120 idiosyncratic works that defy categorization. It has been called folk, outsider, visionary, and the more accepted term, contemporary self-taught art. I agree with the museum website that contemporary self-taught art is now considered, like the blues, spirituals, and jazz, a great contribution to American culture.

I was not as impressed with the On the Road photo exhibitions. Nice prints, but with the "Kerouac" reference I longed for more background information on the photos, the photographer, and "why" the image was selected from their vast collection. An obvious short-coming was the display of just ONE picture of an old Alabama store, noted as being from a series taken in the same spot every 5 years over a period of many years. Wanting was more, more images showing the changes overtime!

But the REAL TREAT of the day was across the street from the Museum of Fine Arts. Tucked in among other interesting store front shops was the Croatian Naive Art: Gallery and Museum Collection. Glancing in the window revealed colorful, whimsical paintings with a glossy, glassy look. Each image "popped" with vibrant color.

Stepping inside I was pleased to see even more of these intriguing paintings and was just realizing they were painted in reverse on glass, when James Nannen, the moving force behind this Gallery, approached me. James readily explained that farmers in Croatia, during their cold winters between farming seasons, perfected the skill of creating art on the back of glass panes.

4 of more layers of paint are laid down for each painting .. with the foreground colors first, and the background painted last. It boggled my mind thinking about how difficult it would be to turn a vision into a reality - backwards.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union these unique original, one-of-a-kind reverse oil on glass paintings from Croatia are now available in the United States.

An 90 day exhibition at the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts in 2000 called "The Fantastical World of Croatian Naive Art" introduced Croatian Naive art to the United States and drew record crowds and rave reviews. James was so impressed with the 100 paintings from the 10 Croatian artists exhibited that he spent the next few years gathering information, making contacts, traveling to Croatia several times, and finally opening his gallery in the Fall of 2006.

Do yourself a favor ... Take the time to check out the art work, the story, and the 15 minute narrated slide show - not exciting, but very informative ... it's worth the time ... at their website


Next time you're in downtown St. Petersburg, stop by 300 Beach Drive and check out Croatian Naive Art and catch the enthusiasm of James and his staff for this unique art style.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Regions Bank (AmSouth) Exchanges Canadian $ for Free!

I often "buy" quarters from my local AmSouth bank for use in parking meters, laundry machines, and other coin operated devices. Recently I found 3 Canadian Quarters mixed in with the US Quarters I expected. Since they won't work in US vending machines, and since they are not quite worth as much as a US Quarter, the next time I took a deposit to the bank and I also took along the 3 Canadian Quarters and asked for an exchange. Here's what I learned.

1) If you take a roll of coins to the bank, they WILL NOT put your name, acct. # or business name on the roll, so there is no way anyone can trace the roll back to you.

2) Usually they do not unwrap and recount the coins.

Therefore, to get FREE exchange of Canadian Coins to US $$$, just wrap them up with some US coins, take them to the bank and either deposit them or ask for paper money in exchange. NO EXCHANGE FEE involved!

Of course, the person who later "buys" the roll, as I did, gets screwed .. but the bank doesn't seem to care .. Even thought I'm a "good" customer, they refused to exchange my 75 cents Canadian for 75 cents US! (Who's more petty, them or me? - Well, I'm sure they have more money than me ... so it certainly hurt me more than it would have them! ... So much for "Customer Service")

They did tell me, however, how to avoid getting YOUR Canadian coins when I next purchase rolls of coin.

Simply insist on NEW COIN in Federal Reserve Wrappers! ... If the teller says they have none, then you will have to open the coins - at the teller window - to be sure you're getting what you asked for!

At a current exchange rate of around 7%, this is a better return on my investment than their savings accounts!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Swimming in the Gulf - temps & conditions link

Summer is here, and with that season comes daily temperatures in the mid to high 80's, and often humidity to match. One of the advantages of living near the Gulf is the ability to take a bit of time off from working to go for a swim in the Gulf and cool off.

Water temperatures are now high enough (in the mid 80's) that I'm able to spend an hour or so floating on my "noodle" and enjoying the serenity without the freezing sensation that often comes with cooler water.
You can find the latest conditions of Clearwater Beach from the NOAA Buoy Data Center website.

I swam off Indian Rocks Beach Saturday and was pleased to see many other people enjoying this fine day at the beach. I'm sure that scene was repeated up and down our barrier islands.

If you live in the area, I encourage you to make the trip to the Gulf and renew your Summertime Spirit.

If you live far from the Gulf, make arrangements to come on down and vacation here. Check out the many vacation rentals available via the Florida Vacation Rental Guide.

See you at the beach,


Welcome to the NEW Tampa Bay Gulf Beaches Blog

Welcome to the Tampa Bay Gulf Beaches Blog where I will, from time to time, provide information about happenings in the Tampa Bay Gulf Beaches area and area websites.

Feel free to leave your suggestions for things to do, comments about the area, or anything else you feel would be appropriate for residents of and/or visitors to the Tampa Bay Gulf Coast Beaches.

This is my first attempt at blogging, so bear with me as I work out the details.