The Sunshine Skyway bridge is generally considered to be a route we take to cut across Tampa Bay, just a way to get from place to another. But with the Skyway: A Contemporary Collaboration exhibit at the Ringling, the bridge takes on a whole new meaning. In order to view the entire collection in this collaborative exhibition, you must traverse the Skyway bridge, making it an important connection to the communities involved in this show.
Skyway is a juried exhibition that opened simultaneously on June 24 at three museums, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg and the Tampa Museum of Art. Works in these exhibits were not allowed to be created before 2016, and were chosen by a committee of curators from each of the three museums, along with a guest juror from the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, Diana Nawi.
Christopher Jones, associate curator of photography and new media at the Ringling, is one of the curators in charge of the exhibition. “One of the things that we are hoping to do as part of this exhibition is to highlight the amazing work that is happening in our community,” Jones says.
There are 57 artists from Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties represented overall, with 11 of the artists having their work featured at The Ringling. The artists have a variety of backgrounds; some are still students working to receive their Master of Fine Arts degrees, while others have been present on the art scene for decades.
“We want to show that we have artists who are doing work that is every bit as important, cogent, topical and boundary pushing here in the area as in anywhere that the art world has sort of centered upon,” Jones says.
The pieces at the Ringling are mainly from artists residing in Tampa and St. Petersburg. The curators for the three museums tried to divvy up the art between the locations so the artists’ works will not be in their home city, but one of the other museums.
Some artists have multiple works in the Ringling exhibit, but they represent a wide range of media. For example, City Beautiful is made solely of construction materials, including raw wood planks and extension cord lights. Across the room, a wall of photographs collected from flea markets and thrift stores reveals the scribbled notes on the back of each photo, eliciting an urge to know what the photos actually look like on the front. There are also videos, sculptures, photographs and paintings that are completely different from one another.
Jones says a lot of the Sarasota-based artists have never had their work shown in the Tampa or St. Petersburg area, and they had the opportunity to reach out and meet artists beyond their city. Jones traveled back and forth across the Skyway bridge himself while meeting with artists and the other curators.
“It’s really creating a stronger network of artists in the area,” he says.
The exhibitions will remain on view through Oct. 15, 2017. More information for the exhibit can be found here.