Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa is a popular route for joggers, bicyclists, and those who just want to stroll by the sea. It also serves as daily driving commute for many. Fortunately for everyone the Boulevard’s median is magically sprinkled with strange and wonderful works of art. One of these is called The Wave – a metal sculpture roughly ten feet tall created by Mary Ann Unger (1945-1998). It is supposed to represent a crashing wave, but people see different things in it. I like to think of it as a gelatinous sea creature sucking water through its body and filtering out plankton. When I see it, which isn’t often, it feels like an old friend.
Art of all kinds is important because otherwise what is the point of life? Do we work in order to pay the bills so we can continue to work? Or do we work to pay the bills in order to have time to play? Our art and our artists are local treasures.
List of public art in Tampa
One of Tampa’s local treasures is also a national treasure that connects us to the past. When the Navy cargo ship American Victory was sitting in Virginia destined for the scrapyard, Captain John C. Timmel arranged for its rescue to live on as a floating museum. One of only three WWII-era Victory-model ships still fully operational, it is open most days of the week for self-guided tours. Not only does it connect us to the past and provide educational benefit, but it serves as a reminder of the efforts of those that kept American soldiers fed, armed, and equipped in Europe, the Pacific, Korea, and Vietnam.
I went to see it and my first impression was that it looks like the game pieces in the Axis-and-Allies board game – only bigger. Once up top, I was surprised how many floors it had. One can see across the channel or look down at the kids playing in the water park nearby. I wandered around the deck, seeing the giant anchor and big guns. Inside I saw the kitchen and insulated food storage. Somewhere a radio played 1940’s-era music. At first I thought that there seemed to be a lot of toilets and showers, but now I think it appropriate based on how many beds there were. My guess would be one bathroom per eight beds. I didn’t count. I suppose when one is on a ship, one doesn’t need to worry about running out of water. Another thing I noticed was that the deck seemed rather smooth and slick. I can only imagine what it would be like rolling back and forth in a storm once it gets a little bit of water on it. It seems like a safety hazard. Is this normal on ships? I should have called ahead to schedule a guide to ask questions (yes, you can do that). Down below there is a collection of various model ships, artifacts, and information placards. I saw giant bullets and shells taller than most children. Wow.
A history of the ship can be found on the website, including the tale of how American Victory broke up sea ice for other ships while leaving a Soviet port despite not being designed for it.
To get to American Victory, take Channelside Avenue in Tampa to the rotary and turn into the entrance for the Florida Aquarium. At the stop sign, take a right and head for the water. Free parking is just around the corner.
705 Channelside Drive, Tampa, Florida
Trinity Café provides human dignity by serving balanced gourmet meals at no cost to the homeless, disabled, and working poor without tedious means-testing or religious proselytization. For those who can afford it, a donation bucket is available near the door. I decided to volunteer to get an inside peek at how it all worked.
At 10:30 am (weekdays), diners line up to receive tickets for lunch. This lets the kitchen know how many meals to make. At 11:30 am (weekdays) the doors open and the diners are assigned seats as they become available. There are two volunteers to a table. One serves the meals and the other provides conversation. It’s actually not a bad way to meet interesting people.
The day I went, they had chicken underneath some sort of tomato-basil sauce and cheese next to grits and a vegetable mix. I had time to snag a plate after everyone else was finished. The tables have tablecloths and flower arrangements in the center, which gives the place a little character. I liked working there for a day (less than three hours). It had a fun atmosphere and a sense of camaraderie among the volunteers and employees. Spots fill up fast, so sign up well ahead of time. For their full schedule, visit their website below.
2801 N Nebraska Avenue, Tampa, Florida
2202 E Busch Boulevard, Tampa, Florida
What on earth is that? Strange looking..... Reading the sign, I see that it's a fig tree. Well, I sure didn't know figs grew like that!
And so, as I strolled the pathways in the Florida Botanical Gardens, more beauty and wonders were discovered. There was a Silk Floss tree, a very spiky barked tree belying its softer name. I wandered past a lovely water garden featuring beautiful blue water lilies. A stunning garden bed of brightly colored impatiens followed (Think of a red, purple, hot pink, and orange explosion). Bromeliads, in their many shapes and forms, were blossoming in and around trees along the way.
I counted seventeen different types of gardens – every fascinating and beautiful plant labeled so you can take notes for your own yard. There is a butterfly garden featuring host plants and nectar plants for butterflies. Butterflies are everywhere in this park! Lush kale, lettuce, and tomatoes grow in the raised bed garden display. What fruit can you grow in central Florida's climate? Check out the tropical fruit garden. Florida Botanical Gardens even has a wedding garden, walled and secluded for that special event. It is flanked by four other gardens: a rose garden, a "contemporary jazz” garden, topiary garden, and a cottage garden.
I love this place. There is always something different to see in this little piece of paradise.
12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo, Florida
Written by Lucy Noe
Sometimes little gems are easily missed, which is why in our travels we just had to turn around and explore. Owned by the Town of Longboat Key (west of Sarasota), Durante Park has a little bit of everything for nature lovers. Near the entrance is a botanical garden featuring many popular Floridian flowering plants. You can find hibiscus, bougainvillea, jacaranda, and wild coffee to name a few. Beyond the garden is parking, restrooms, a playground, a pond with a fountain, a pavilion, and an open grassy area. Trails begin here, winding through several ecological systems by means of shell paths and board walks.
As part of coastal restoration, a wetlands system was created in the park. This provides food to many species as well as being a pollutant filter for Sarasota Bay. The upland coastal forest is also being restored. Mangrove forests and salt marshes are other ecosystems found in this park. The many trails are popular for joggers and dog walkers as well as naturalists.
We saw egrets, a cardinal, a yellow warbler, mangrove crabs, and possibly an ovenbird during the short time we spent there having a picnic supper. If you are in the area, Durante Park is worth visiting.
5550 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key, Florida
Written By Lucy Noe
It was only a few years ago that Scott Kenny and his wife were selling gifts, antiques, furniture, and home décor online out of their storage unit. Now they have a store. Both artists and woodworkers themselves, they know the business. Around the store among the signs with cute sayings, the paintings, the exotic soaps, and the lamps are worn-looking chairs, desks, bureaus, and tables. This is furniture painted to look worn and then coated so as not to wear any further – a style I am told is called shabby chic. They even sell the same paint they use in the store and offer painting classes so others can do it. There is a variety of shapes and sizes of furniture, such as children’s desks, so one can find something special that fits their specific needs. There are a lot of interesting things there.
The couple is involved in the community and Scott was even named 2016 honorary mayor by the Southshore Chamber of Commerce for raising the most money for charity. They offer painting classes and even plan on expanding the store.
229 Apollo Beach Boulevard, Apollo Beach, Florida
Written by Daniel Noe, ChampionOfTheGalaxy.com
1707 1st Street, Bradenton, FL
Written by: Tom Noe
Written by Daniel Noe, ChampionOfTheGalaxy.com
Met with soft pink walls featuring words of encouragement, a woman battling breast cancer feels a sense of comfort as she enters A New You, Pink Boutique. A different kind of shop, the boutique seeks to work with a woman's medical team to provide compassionate care before and after breast surgery. Made in the USA, American Breast Care products provide a high standard in breast prostheses. Several different types of breast forms are available. A certified fitter on staff will help select the right fit for a woman's individual needs. They carry mastectomy garments, such as pocketed bras in styles from casual, to lacy, to even strapless. Also, several styles of swimwear are on display. Wigs and artificial eyebrows from the boutique help a woman on chemotherapy to feel more feminine and confident. There are also racks of "T" shirts and fun hats with upbeat and encouraging slogans. One might purchase a gift for a loved one such as a journal or jewelry.
Carol Sands-Poole co-founded the boutique with her sister Lisa, who passed away in 2013. Her warm and upbeat personality helps bring encouragement and hope to her clientele. Carol sees her business as more than a store. Instead, she sees it as a ministry to women at a vulnerable time in their lives. On the window of the shop are the words "Faith," "Hope," "Strength," and "Courage," – and that's what it's all about.
106 West Robertson Street, Brandon, Florida
Written by Lucy Noe
The Leepa - Rattner Museum is a small and delightful museum of modern and contemporary art. It is located on the Tarpon Springs campus of St. Petersburg College. Besides their permanent collection they have many temporary gallery shows. We enjoyed our time visiting and will become a frequent visitor. The staff and docents were friendly and knowledgeable. We were surprised about the variety of the art and the enjoyment we had being there.
The museum views itself as a support to the local community by helping people learn and appreciate art, create their own art, and display the art. We talked with several college students who were studying art work for one of their classes. The museum had several displays of local art from people from all ages and abilities. It has a variety of interactive art experiences.
600 East Klosterman Road, Tarpon Springs, Florida
Written by: Tom Noe
LOVES TAMPA BAY