Community in a Big City

Having a sense of community in a big city can be challenging. I’ve recently attended two different events that are changing my mind about that idea: 5×5 Tampa Bay and Taste of the Heights.

The focus of 5×5 is art. (Here are some of my earlier thoughts about the event.) On October 18 I witnessed the Tampa art community come together to support local artists. There were so many people there, wanting to be the first to choose and purchase a little piece of art. I was happy to see one of my paintings sold before I could even walk to it. It was a proud moment to see that little orange sticker by my painting. Open-mouthed smile

And it didn’t take long to look around the room to see all of the others with artist stickers. They too were looking to see if their art sold. They too were buying small pieces of art to support the local art community. They too were wearing smiles of pride at having been a part of this great event. And, of course, the artists were side-by-side with art appreciators who were looking for their own special pieces of art. Even with the purchasing floor being crowded, long lines, and warm temperatures everyone was in good spirits. It really was a great example of the community coming together to support a great cause.

Sold

My “Cactus Flower” sold early!

Sunday, October 20, I experienced Taste of the Heights. Seminole Heights is the neighborhood I live in, and it is a special place in Tampa. Tampa is a really big city, and Florida sprawl seems to be a part of the city planning. Yet there are some really cool things in Tampa, even if you usually have to search to find them. If you come to Tampa, Seminole Heights is one of the places you would want to search for. There are a number of tasty restaurants in the area. (The Refinery, Cappy’s Pizzeria, and Ella’s Folkart Cafe come to mind.) There are also some really nice bars with craft beers and great atmospheres (e.g. The Independent and The Mermaid).

In addition to tasty, trendy places, people seem to genuinely care in Seminole Heights. There’s a good chance that you’ll have a nice chat with another customer while in the check-out line of the grocery store. If you frequent those tasty, trendy places often enough you’ll likely end up making a friend, because people actually talk to each other there. This is the neighborhood that protested a Family Dollar going in on Florida Ave. Unfortunately it still went in, but at least the community took a stand!

In general Seminole Heights is a big town neighborhood with a small town feel, and events like Taste of the Heights are a great complement to that feel. The event consisted of 10 stops around a long block. The stops were in local people’s  front and/or back yards and contained food, beer, artist, and bands. It was really great knowing that locals opened their homes (well, at least their yards) to us so that we could sample the Seminole Heights fare. It was sunny, hot, and some of the lines were long, yet everyone was in good spirits. When people bumped into me and excused themselves, I told them it was Ok. We were all neighbors, after all!

I’ve lived in Tampa for three years, and I guess I’m finally finding my niche. Finding a bit of community in a big city really helps.

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