Posted by: Stacy Miller on Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Leadership Tampa’s 50th class spent a golden day exploring arts and culture in the region. The theme of the day was small to large; illustrating how individuals and small businesses can lead to a big community impact. Each stop was a poignant example of how history, culture, food, music, and art all contribute to Tampa being the best city in America.  History tells us that Tampa Bay started out with cigars and Cuban sandwiches, but it is so much more now.

Tampa is rich in historical stories of triumph, success, missteps, and failure. Some of the best examples of this were found in the Oaklawn Cemetery. Can you believe that in the mid-nineteenth century, a white Tampa leader and his black servant wife were buried together? 

Figure 1 "Here lies Wm. Ashley and Nancy Ashley, Master and Servant," with Brian A. and Hero

Tampa is known as “Cigar City.” The cigar industry is a part of its history and identity.  The J.C. Newman Cigar Company has 125 years of excellence in making cigars, and the tour showed us the secrets to their success, including how they can claim to “still have Cuban” tobacco.

Figure 2 Bag of Cuban tobacco in the basement

Family-owned for over 100 years, the Columbia family of restaurants leads the way for food culture in Tampa Bay. The local story, authentic approach, and finest ingredients are only the tip of the iceberg. Their philosophy of taking care of family, including employees and neighbors, is at the heart of their continued success.

Crowbar, a great little dive bar whose owner-turned-reluctant-activist, was a fun and unexpected setting for the fantastic sounds of The Katara Trio. The panel of experts talked about the need to feed and nurture independent musicians to drive the music scene. When this is done well, technology often follows, drawing young talent and economic development. This discussion fit our small to large theme perfectly.

Figure 3 The Katara Trio performing for LT'21

Tampa has a vibrant and growing art scene, but, like many industries, it is struggling right now due to the pandemic. Exciting and promising news from the panel discussion, however, is that the Peninsularium, “cooler than a museum, smarter than a theme park, weirder than a carnival,” is expected to open in late 2021.

Each part of the day shed a light on the strengths of the Tampa Bay arts and culture ecosystem, and how each part is entwined with the others in driving economic success for individuals, businesses, industries, and the region. History, food, music, and art combine to make Tampa Bay the community we all love. It was an incredible day and an eye-opening experience for the newest leaders in the community.

LT ’21 Arts & Culture Day Photos