St. Pete’s art, culture and innovation culminated in the first annual Et Cultura, a five-day long festival hosting locally sourced creators and performers. From November 16-20, guests could experience the heart of our city for a $25 all-access pass, earning them entrance to premiere films and live music. The crossplatform, multi-day event offered something for everyone: a weekend of continuous concerts, plenty of compelling visual art from every medium, and a 180-plus booth indie market with vendors of every specialty.
Et Cultura began at Station House along First Avenue South, where the concepts of technology, entrepreneurship and networking were wrestled with. The floors of Station House were alive with commerce and discovery, which the multifaceted restaurant accommodated with ease. St. Pete’s up-and-coming innovators took part in a community speed networking event and a nightlong jam session, as well as a keynote speech given by Senior SXSW Conference Planner Catlin Whitington. Finally, on Friday afternoon, the fair shifted from tech to art as the first stage of Et Cultura came to an end.
Later that night, Green Bench Brewing Company opened its doors and its taps to recognize the start of Et Cultura’s weekend events with a ribbon cutting in the beer garden, where Joel Malizia, one of the festival’s founders, spoke on the impact and future of Et Cultura. Lea Umberger, also a founder, expounded upon “We’re about the art, music, films and internationalism this city is known for. It’s about highlighting what St. Pete really is.” – Lea Umberger the idea behind the festival: “We’re about the art, music, films and internationalism this city is known for,” she said. “It’s about highlighting what St. Pete really is.” As the founders cut the ribbon, unified chants of, “We love St. Pete!” marked the significance of the occasion, and set the mood for the next two days of festivities.
Shows of artistic talent were the centerpiece of the schedule each night. Cultural significance was the theme of Friday’s exhibit, which aimed to promote graphic design throughout the community, and strengthen St. Pete’s creative network by showcasing pieces whose inspiration came from familial traditions, local historic events, or any other community-centric event. The following night, attendees were treated to a “heroes vs. villains”- style gallery, hosted by Black Amethyst Tattoo Gallery. The artists left traditional comic book-style heroes and villains in favor of those found in literature and film, producing a mix of the classical and modern. These creative characters were illustrated with methods ranging from embroidery to oil paintings to colored pencils by talented local artists. Lastly, Sunday night featured a curated selection of photographers sharing their work in slideshows, with subjects based in the Bay Area and beyond.
The visual arts extended to motion picture as well, with two separate theaters playing St. Pete’s finest animated and liveaction productions, including the Florida premiere of Nerdland, an animated comedy featuring the voices of actors Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt.
Across the street from the theaters stood Et Cultura’s concert stage. From Friday to Sunday night, local musicians took the stage by storm, performing for a block-wide field of fans. The festival was headlined by artists such as Must Be the Holy Ghost, Kendra Morris, and The Hip Abduction. With roots in St. Pete and a love for the community, The Hip Abduction’s summery, synthpop sound epitomizes what the event’s scene conveys. Et Cultura’s music scene refuses to be genre specific, however. Songs ranged from the gritty rap of DEA & Saint, to Dan Orlando’s dance-inciting piano rock.
Each morning of the weekend, The Body Electric Yoga took to the field, leading a group session of relaxing yoga to start the day, alongside calming tunes from groups such as Desert Dwellers. Performance wasn’t contained to the concert field, as just outside was a traveling booth hosting artists from the Florida Folk Scene.
The wholesome, down-to-earth music provided by the folk artists provided the perfect backdrop for the indie market booths that lined Baum Avenue. Nearly 200 vendors came together to showcase their passion, whether that be homegrown succulents or handcrafted jewelry. Fresh pastries and locally sourced coffee were made readily available amongst shops proudly displaying traditionally made denim, unique metalwork, and paper craft made on commission.
The first annual Et Cultura may have come to an end, but what it observed lives on stronger than ever. St. Petersburg is a city renowned for breathtaking art, ambitious growth and a thriving indie scene. The festival celebrated all of these, and has achieved what no other event has—it united all aspects of the artistic community in one event, large enough to span multiple days. Et Cultura not only placed St. Pete’s beauty and creativity on the mainstage, but also assured us that it is not going anywhere.