Ken Rollins

Fine Arts Consultant, Art Collector and former Director of the Tampa Museum of Art, Ken Rollins shares his insight on the Tampa Bay arts scene and why, after living in cities all over the US, he’s never found a better place to live than St. Petersburg.  Photographed in his home on North Shore Drive. 

Why Tampa Bay?  I’ve never found an area I like better. There’s diversity, a multitude of things to do, a very strong arts scene and it’s very livable. I first went to Ybor City in the 60s – coming from South Carolina it was like going to another country. I’d never met Latin people before!

You’ve lived on both sides of the bay – from Ybor City to North Shore Drive. What  observations would you share with us?  What makes Tampa Bay such a great place to live is the diversity of the area; ethnically, culturally, artistically, architecturally, commercially and historically.  Tampa and St. Petersburg are both special places with assets and challenges unique to their community. Downtown St. Pete is very livable – it’s bike friendly and very walkable. I go to the Saturday Morning Market every week and buy veggies. Tampa’s got much more diversity, more corporate headquarters, a major port and Gasparilla.

Name the five best things about living on North Shore Drive.  The views of Tampa Bay.  North Shore Park and Vinoy Park.  All the festivals and concerts in Vinoy Park.  The Vinoy Hotel Club is within walking distance.  The bike paths.

How would you describe the arts scene in Tampa Bay?  We’ve got a diverse and strong visual and performing arts scene. Most cities don’t have as many cultural institutions as we do. We’ve got three major performing arts centers and the visual arts scene is vibrant and diverse.  The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Pete has an encyclopedic collection, there’s The Dali and if you include Sarasota you’ve also got the Ringling with a world class Baroque collection. You can’t see anything like that anywhere else in the U.S unless you’re at the Met.

Where are your favorite places to see new art in Tampa Bay?  For Contemporary Art – USF CAM and the Tampa Museum of Art. For local artists or emerging talent there are numerous galleries and art centers – the Morean Arts Center, Salt Creek Artworks, Florida Craftsmen Gallery, Clayton Galleries, West Tampa Center, Tempus Projects and the 600 Block galleries in St. Petersburg.

When you retired as Director of the Tampa Museum of Art, you founded Rollins Fine Arts.  What made you decide to start an arts consultancy?  It’s really gratifying working with and helping artists. It’s also very gratifying working with my partner and son, Noah.

What advice would you give an aspiring young artist in Tampa Bay?  Don’t be afraid to break the rules and follow you unique creative intuition. Be prolific.

An arts lover is visiting Tampa Bay for the first time. What’s your recommended itinerary for a weekend?  Wow! Just a weekend? Friday night have dinner at the Columbia in Ybor and be sure to see the Flamenco show. Saturday go to USF CAM. Visit the Tampa Museum of Art, the Glazer Children’s Museum and the Florida Museum of Photographic Art,  all in Downtown Tampa. Dinner at Mise En Place.  Sunday head to St. Petersburg. Visit the Museum of Fine Arts and the Dali Museum. Lunch at the Vinoy Hotel thenvisit  the Chilhuly Collection and the Morean Arts Center.  If you still have stamina visit the studios at Salt Creek and the Florida Craftsmen Gallery. Have dinner at Cassis.

What inspires you in 2012?  It appears the economy is beginning to turn around and that is good for all of us. I am optimistic about the future!