Food, Music, Culture, Et Cultura
Lea Umberger stared in disbelief at the sheer number of people walking down Baum Avenue Saturday night.
Located off Central Avenue near the Green Bench Brewing Co., thousands of people gathered at Et Cultura, a local festival that celebrates St. Petersburg’s creative culture. Umberger worked tirelessly since January planning the 5-day event.
“We wanted to bring together local, national and international artists to create something new,” Umberger said. “I think it worked.”
Umberger didn’t work alone. Along with Colin Lyman, the coordinating director, Joel Malizia, and Dave Allison, who co-founded Pilot Moon Films, Umberger pulled together an ambitious festival.
The four founders gathered artists who worked in a variety of mediums, including film, music, art, crafts and yoga. The family-friendly festival also provided a section for children, entitled Et Kidtura, that hosted puppet shows, storytime and small yoga sessions.
Umberger said collecting a variety of creative people in one setting made for some one-of-a-kind moments.
“Last night [Thursday] we had one of our local music performers, Dan Orlando, running a late night jam session. He was joined by three students from Shorecrest Prep and Mouth Council. Then a random guy came in with his violin,” Umberger said. “He saw a sign for it earlier and wanted to collab. It blew my mind. That’s what all of this is all about.”
On Friday, Chris Steinocher, the president of St. Petersburg’s Chamber of Commerce, cut the ribbon for the festival with the four founders. He praised Et Cultura as a prized event for the city.
“We want to be a city that supports all of the creativity in St. Petersburg in whatever way they [artists] choose to show it,” Steinocher said. “A festival like this does exactly that.”
Green Bench released a beer entitled Et Cultura to pay homage to the festival. The 4.8 percent ABV Mexican-style lager, which resembles known brands like Corona, refreshed attendees throughout the weekend.
Read on to learn about the artists that came together for the inaugural Et Cultura festival in St. Petersburg.
By Luke Cross
Et Cultura served as a home to more than 150 vendors, artists and designers this weekend.
Baum Avenue bustled with vibrant metalwork, traditional jewelry, homemade denim and fresh baked goods. Each booth came to life with its own unique style, manned by friendly locals more than willing to share the enthusiasm for their craft and hometown. Every vendor tells their own tale of the St. Pete Indie scene and how they began, as well as unique reasons for loving the Bay area.
Hosting such a large-scale market was made possible by collaborating with the St. Pete Indie Market, a monthly fair focusing on everything indie in St. Pete.
Rosie Williams, the founder of the Indie Market and the Tampa Indie Flea, managed and organized a majority of booths, a labor done out of love.
“Et Cultura is an obvious fit for the Indie Market: they have great organizers with the Green Bench Brewery, it’s a great concept and it unites the community,” Williams stated.
More than just a collection of grassroots vendors, Maker’s Market became an evolution for St. Pete’s indie scene as a whole. A sense of liveliness and optimism pervaded the festival, with a vision of the city’s beauty and artistic future.
Williams shared hopes for the local art scene.
“This is our next step,” she said. “It’s a two-day event about indie culture, one where we can really get everyone involved and share our passions.”
Running from 2-10 p.m. Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, vendors ran themselves ragged serving the thousands of passerby. But many did so with a smile.
Tropiccool, one of these vendors, served artisanal gelato from a refurbished double-decker bus parked among the booths. The story of the owner, Stefan, sums up what the Maker’s Market is truly about.
“I wholesale distribute and cater for a lot of local businesses, the Dali, Tradewinds, but I’m at Et Cultura because of the people,” Stefan said.
“It’s a great event for bringing people together and putting our work forward.”
Yoga Energizes Et Cultura
By Evy Guerra
Surrounded by ambient tribal tones, over 100 people performed yoga between Baum Avenue and 11th Street.
Setting the scape, Desert Dwellers took to the stage to bathe the crowd in sound while Katelyn Grady moved through yoga positions for them to match.
Grady, an instructor at The Body Electric Yoga Company, has been on the Et Cultura Board from the beginning. The board wanted to include yoga in the festival, but wanted something more appealing than a standard class.
The team invited Desert Dwellers, a duo of electronic artists that travels around the world to play music for the yoga scene. The pair is known for their spiritual style and electronic sounds.
Grady has created music playlists for her classes with tracks by the duo, and she was excited to collaborate with them.
The Body Electric Yoga Company believes that yoga is for everyone. Grady worked to ensure that the lesson would appeal to everyone, leaving no one feeling too intimidated to participate.
After the class, where Grady stressed positivity wrapped in relaxing music, she made it a point to greet and hug many of the attendees. It helped that she was met with familiar faces and regulars in her studio.
Yoga is Grady’s passion and she opened the Body Electric studio in 2013 with Jenny Miller, her partner in both business and life.
Kristen Rich was in the crowd following Grady’s yoga routine. Rich graduated from USF in May and moved to St. Pete in August. She had been attending Grady’s classes ever since and was told to attend during one of the sessions.
“Katelyn is an awesome teacher, she comes up with beautiful flows,” she said.
Rich complimented the atmosphere of the show and said that Grady’s talent as an instructor was a big reason.
“You can see that everybody is feeling it when she is teaching,” she said.
Grady teaches classes of 20-40 students at the studio, but teaching to 100 came naturally.
“I feel partly relieved. I’ve done my job and there weren’t any problems. But I always feel amazing after too. teaching gives me a big buzz from the energy,” she said.
It’s Raining Pixels
By Ryan Callihan
Pixel Rain Digital is all about creating audio-visual experiences that awe and inspire.
Last year, Pixel Rain teamed up with Expedia and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for its biggest project yet. In an effort to bring the outside world to sick children, Expedia sent out photographers equipped with 360-degree cameras to film and stream footage of animals in the wild, such as schools of fish or wild horses.
The Dream Adventures project mapped those images onto the walls of a small room to give the children an interactive experience like no other. The room displayed a live feed of the explorers and their cameras and the children dictated what they wanted the explorers to do next.
“Everything we do is big,” said the founder and creative director of Pixel Rain Digital, Jason Lashley. “The idea of a successful project is when people come up to us and say, ‘Oh my God, that was amazing!’”
The Dream Adventures joint project is Pixel Rain’s biggest demonstration yet. The project’s video has 1.6 million views on YouTube.
The company has also worked with the New York Yankees, IndyCar and many local businesses.
Lashley began Pixel Rain Digital in March 2013 while he studied at St. Petersburg College and worked with various nightclubs in the St. Petersburg area.
Lashley used a vacant building to display his projection during Et Cultura. First, he modeled an image of the building onto the building itself. Next, animations made it seem as if the building’s bricks were pulsating until they broke away entirely.
Pixel Rain’s projection then filled the entire surface of the building, minus the arches, with water. Fish and sharks swam through the water and behind the arches. The aquarium scene drained out to reveal a beach sunset and butterflies that flew toward the audience.
The beach exploded to reveal a planetary image that transformed again into a beach. This time, the beach featured a groovy, 1970s neon theme.
Lashley said that the past two weeks have been dedicated to the Et Cultura display. He notes that it is a small amount of time to spend on such a demanding medium.
In order to create its projections, Lashley must first examine the facade and recreate the layout in computer software where animations and lights can be planned out. The difference between Pixel Rain and other companies is the attention to detail.
“Tonight, we’re modeling and projecting on every brick. Other designers do more basic work,” said Lashley of Saturday’s projection event.
The real magic comes from the special projectors that Pixel Rain uses. Molecular Media worked with Lashley to provide the hardware setup for Et Cultura.
“We normally use two 18,000 lumens projectors,” said Lashley. “By comparison, an office projector is 2,000 lumens. They weigh 200 to 300 pounds a piece.”
The company’s biggest challenge is getting hosts to recognize the worth of a unique interactive experience.
“By its nature, it’s an audio-visual event that requires lots of time and maintenance to pull off,” said Lashley.
As for future plans, Lashley wants to keep expanding and showing off his project mapping demonstrations.
“I want to light up the world, light up the moon. I just wanna go bigger and reach more people. There’s always bigger to go. There’s more people to reach.”
Dan Orlando Jazzes Up the Festival
By Jonah Hinebaugh
Philadelphia-born singer-songwriter Dan Orlando was one of the more than 30 musicians that performed during Et Cultura. Orlando played alongside his brother, Greg and hometown friends on the main stage for an hour-long set Friday night.
“A friend of mine was one of the organizers and he runs a company called Pilot Moon Films,” Orlando said, “so my buddy Joel and I worked together on a few films and he first floated the idea that he was working on this festival and the last two years I’ve been based here so it made sense.
“I felt like I had become part of the community and I wanted to lend my songs and gifts so to speak to the inaugural festival.”
Dan Orlando travels across the U.S. supporting artists like Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and Robin Thicke. He and his band have also started booking their own gigs. They’ve performed at the “Power of Love” 20th Anniversary Gala, celebrating Tony Bennett’s 90th Birthday and at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas alongside Jordin Sparks.
“I started playing piano at a really young age, at six formally, and was classically trained,” Orlando said. “I got to jazz in my teens and I got to songwriting in high school and it just evolved from there.”
Orlando thinks the importance of Et Cultura is to bring artists and creativity together.
“I think this community has a lot of transplants and has a lot of people moving here and not from here,” Orlando said. “There’s a lot of creative new energy that I think is important that it coalesces around a single purpose and is unified. The more this town can develop its own identity the more people are going to feel comfortable putting boots down here. Festivals are a great way to do that.”
Et Cultura gives people the opportunity to experience something brand new whether that be art, films or music.
“Plus [festivals] get people out of the house and out of Netflix and chill mode,” Orlando said. “It gets them off the internet, out talking to people and going out to shows experiencing a whole bunch of things all at once that they can follow throughout the year so I think it’s a home run idea.”
Orlando is honored to be on the ground floor of something that he thinks will be very special.
“I’ve been around the people that have worked on this, developed this festival and I can feel their energy and passion and their goals,” Orlando said. “I think they want this to have longevity and be around for a long time, they don’t want this festival to be a flash in the pan. Just to feel like in 10 years I’m going to be talking to some reporter and go, ‘I played the first Et Cultura.’”
Saturday Toons: Up Early For No Reason
By Alyssa Coburn
Et Cultura paid homage to Saturday morning cartoons by starting off the day with a series of eight shorts by the CGBros, a “collective of digital 3D/Animation/VFX professionals.”
The shorts varied from fully-animated comedies like “The D in David” to live-action thrillers with strong CGI elements like “Mech: Human Trials.” Five people attended the noon showing. Originally, there were 10 shorts in the collection, however, technical difficulties left two unusable.
Derek Horne was the short film curator and programmer for Et Cultura. Horne has worked for a variety of festivals including the DC Shorts Film Festival, the largest short film festival on the east coast.
Horne has seen over 4,000 shorts this year alone and said he brought “the best of the best” to St. Pete. He aimed to capture the lives of the artists.
“This whole festival is a gathering of different types of artists. That’s what we’re building here, a community of artists,” said Horne.
The films varied from 9-12 minutes in length and the collection included an abundance of genres ranging from comedy to horror. The goal was to make sure there was a little something for everyone.
“If one film doesn’t interest you, you only have to wait 10 minutes for the next one,” said Horne.
Shorts weren’t the only films offered at Et Cultura. A wide range of documentaries were also screened throughout the festival.
Horne said he was immensely pleased with the overall turnout for Et Cultura, however, the films seemed to be overshadowed by the music and vendors. The indoor theaters were difficult for some attendees to locate. Additionally, the music tended to draw people outside.
To ensure that attendees have the opportunity to view the films, Horne would like to implement an at-home viewing feature. Horne has previously done something similar at the DC Shorts festival where guests are given a code that allowed them to view the films at home during the duration of the festival.
Et Cultura will be honoring the best films via their website.
Unveiling the Unexpected
by Devin Rodriguez
Tattoo parlors get a bad rap, according to Joanna Coblentz, the coordinator of Et Cultura’s second pop-up art show during the festival.
She said that some people consider tattoo shops to be taboo, they imagine the parlors as dirty places with burly outsiders, but her business, Black Amethyst, brings more to the table.
Coblentz’s boyfriend, J Michael Taylor, has a fine arts degree and owns Black Amethyst. Taylor and Coblentz’s goal is to utilize their space to help local artists show off their work. Connecting with Green Bench Brewing Co. benefited the tattoo parlor, who could reach a larger audience by hosting art shows in the brewery’s beer garden.
When the couple heard about the new festival, they knew that it was a good opportunity. Deciding on a topic, they wanted something that would connect to anyone, young or old. They chose to call the show “Heroes and Villains in Film and Literature,” and offered spots to 38 artists.
Cersei from “Game of Thrones,” Robocop, Ursula, Tank Girl and Jack the Ripper all glared menacingly from their frames. The artists were given three months to craft their projects. Some went beyond paint, utilizing stained glass, metal and wood to craft unique designs. Coblentz was impressed by the effort put in.
“This is the first time that I’ve loved all of the displays in the show,” she said. “Half of the pieces are from new artists too, who heard about us.”
Coblentz was contacted to join Et Cultura early on and said that as the project developed it kept growing. She attributed that to how tight-knit the St. Petersburg art community is.
“This is a place where artists lift each other up,” Coblentz said. “The people coming to this event tonight are going to make connections, and the connections that they make will lead to even bigger things.
“That’s why Et Cultura is going to be so successful.”
The unique community of St. Pete is what makes her excited to participate in big events like Et Cultura.
Taylor and Coblentz said they want to bring people the unexpected. Coblentz said that she knows they are not the first tattoo shop to provide high-end art, but she feels they provide a unique voice.