All posts by Chris Demmons

Creatives Meet with Mentors at Creative Career Summit

Q&A with Al Pitrelli at the Creative Career Summit

SPC’s first Creative Career Summit brought successful artists like Al Pitrelli, Esteban Valdez, and Josh Sullivan to the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus to speak to creatives among students and the community.

Head of the team – Al Pitrelli

The Oct. 19 event’s keynote speaker, Pitrelli has served as the musical director for musician Alice Cooper and played with bands like Megadeath and Blue Oyster Cult. He now is the musical musical director and lead guitarist for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

As a musical director, Pitrelli brings the whole show together in the studio or on the road. He compared it to being the head coach of a football team. Instead of winning games, he works with band members and the lighting designer to create great albums and shows.

In addition to the keynote, Pitrelli hosted a long Q&A with students. During both, he stressed the importance of hard work, study, practice, and passion.

“You have to love this more than anything else,” Pitrelli said about working in the entertainment and music business. “You have to be a bit selfish, and you have to assume there’s somebody else out there that wants it just as much as you do. Forty years ago when I was 15-years-old, nothing else mattered other than practicing all day and all night. I’d rather be broke than do anything else. My advice to everyone is work like your life depends on it.”

Animation and Esteban Valdez

Esteban Valdez, founder of the award-winning animation studio Echo Bridge, gave a presentation about “5 Tips for Getting Hired.” It focused on the art of the job search and networking. The company changed its internship program over the summer to be more like a traditional apprenticeship with a focus on fundamentals. The goal, he said, is to have each intern produce a short by the end of their internship.

“A couple of students have said, ‘Now that I know that I can do a film, I’m already working on my second one.’ It gets them to keep on making shorts, keep on making animation.” said Valdez.

He is currently working on a short, “Alone”, which had been in production at the studio for the past two years. The film experiments with light, sound, and subliminal messaging. Valdez says it is a tribute to Stanley Kubrick.

From SPC art student to entrepreneur – Josh Sullivan

SPC alum and entrepreneur Josh Sullivan met with students and gave a presentation “From Art Student to Entrepreneur.” Sullivan graduated from SPC in 2015 and now is taking on his own interns from the college. He was nominated for an Ignatz Award in the Outstanding Mini-Comic category and won Best of the Bay: Best Bizarre Sense of Humor from Creative Loafing. His work was most recently shown at the Haus Coffee Shop in Largo.

The night also featured the Arts Conservatory for Teens, the Disney Internship program, Girls Rock St. Pete, J. Thor Productions, and

Interested in programs for creatives at SPC? Learn more online!

Student Photographers’ Work Accompanies Smithsonian Exhibit

Woman with camera.

Ten of St. Petersburg College’s talented student photographers will have their work displayed alongside the special Smithsonian exhibit The Way We Worked at the City of Tarpon Springs’ Center for Gulf Coast Folklife Gallery in the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center. The showing starts on Friday, Oct. 6.

The photographers are part of the Photography program at Clearwater Campus, and many are active in a newly formed photography club at the campus.

Photographers’ project: Working in Tampa Bay
A Day's Work by photographer Bonnie Simmons
From the exhibition, “A Day’s Work” Handy Woman, Bonnie Simmons

Professor Eleni Christopoulos-Lekkas directed the students in capturing Working in Tampa Bay. The photos were captured on a combination of film and digital cameras. Students featured a variety occupations from around the Tampa Bay area and have also collected objects associated with the trades as part of the exhibit.

The special opening night reception will feature workers from a variety of fields, who will speak about what they do and how it makes a difference in the lives of Floridians.

A sponge diver is among the workers slated to speak at the reception. Sponge diving has played an important cultural and economic role in Tarpon Springs dating back to the 19th century.

Other associated events that will run throughout October include talks on the working lives of Floridians by historians, and a showing of three documentary films at the Tarpon Springs Library. Learn more about this, and the other great events at the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center.

Don’t miss out!

Come to the reception on Friday, Oct. 6, at the Folklife Gallery at the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center. The exhibit is FREE and will run through Nov. 17. This is a fantastic opportunity to see a Smithsonian exhibit and support Tampa Bay’s student artists.

Interested in photography? Learn more about the Photographic Technology A.S. Degree at St. Petersburg College.

Mural on St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus Dedicated

Photo of the ribbon cutting for Infinite Journey mural.

The St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus’ new mural Infinite Journey is official with a dedication ceremony held April 26 that included St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin.

Dedication of campus mural

Artist Derek Donelly, Tomalin, SP/G Provost Jamelle Conner, and Phi Theta Kappa Eta Nu Officer Julie Chorgo-Gilson were on hand to cut the ribbon and dedicate the mural. The day’s dedication represented the end of PTK Eta Nu and the Ethics in Action Club’s journey to bring a mural to campus.

PTK Eta Nu Advisor Bonnie Kesler and PTK Eta Nu were honored with a Hallmark Award for Distinguished College Project for their work. The club accepted the award in April at the Catalyst international Convention for PTK chapters. Students selected Derek Donelly’s design from a number of contenders.

Mural honors students, alumni

Derek Donelly is a hometown artist, noted for his gorgeous murals.

A founding member of the Pinellas Park Arts Village, his past projects have included murals for the American Association for Retired Persons and Achieva Credit Union. He is one of the artists credited with bringing murals to downtown St. Petersburg in 2013.

Infinite Journey shows a sea turtle swimming through a sea of stars and represents an SPC student’s journey into “the great unknown” after graduation.

The work also celebrates alum NASA astronaut Nicole P. Stott. She participated in five missions in space and the first live NASA Tweetup from the International Space Station. SP/G students had the opportunity to see the artist in action as he painted the mural on the side of the campus’ Student Services building.

Home of the arts

SP/G is no stranger to the arts. It is the home of the Music Industry and Recording Arts program  and the Music Center, which has hosted musicians from around the world.

The Music Center also recently hosted a showing of African-American art and provided a free showing of the film Hidden Figures for SPC students.

Learn more about St. Petersburg Gibbs Campus. And see more photos from the ribbon cutting at the mural’s dedication on the college’s Facebook page.  

Miroux Brings It On Stage At GMF

Photo of Miroux on stage at GMF

Tampa Bay-area band Miroux, led by St. Petersburg College Music Industry and Recording Arts student Jonathan Hollander, played at the sixth annual Gasparilla Music Festival. The band joined local favorites and national acts at the two-day festival in Tampa on Saturday, March 11.

The six-piece band includes Hollander, the lead singer, guitarists Zack Page and George Leventis, San Siaca on bass, Alex Merrill on keyboards, and drummer Charlie Bianchet.

Hollander, who has previously been featured on SPC’s Arts, Humanities and Design blog, is an accomplished musician who has opened for George Clinton and his Parliament Funkadelic. With Miroux, they have opened for bands like Young the Giant, and The 1975. Listen to a sampler of their music on Soundcloud.

“The MIRA program was essential in building us up, and helping us get on this stage,” said Hollander.

Rubbing shoulders with the stars

St. Petersburg College student Ben Kennett, a member of the SPC Radio Club, had the opportunity to interview Scott Anderson of Have Gun, Will Travel in the Orange Room backstage at the Gasparilla Music Festival. Have Gun, Will Travel’s music has been featured on shows like Roadtrip Nation, The Good Wife, and Expedition Unknown. Anderson was one of a number of musicians who sat for interviews in the backstage lounge that was created by students and staff. The festival gave students a chance to network and learn from music industry professionals.

Faculty and staff raise money for MIRA

While Miroux was playing the stage, many of their music instructors were across the park serving up the suds for a good cause. St. Petersburg College faculty and staff took up their battle stations in the bustling beer tent at the Gasparilla Music Festival to raise money for Faculty and staff raise money for MIRAMIRA. This has been an annual tradition, raising money to help talented music students in need.

The two day festival spanning two parks brought thousands into contact with the best in local music along with Cage the Elephant and Ryan Adams. With more than 40 bands in genres ranging from gospel to blues to pop, there was something for everyone. Festival favorites included the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Have Gun, Will Travel, and the Tampa Metropolitan Youth Orchestra. This year’s Gasparilla Music Festival was a great opportunity to celebrate and support Tampa Bay’s music scene, including artists from right here at SPC.

The MIRA Associate in Science degree offers a well-rounded, technology-based education to student musicians, composers, producers, DJs, live-sound reinforcement enthusiasts, broadcast audio engineers and post-production technologists.

Empty Bowls At SPC Fights Hunger In Pinellas County

Empty Bowls Table

The St. Petersburg College Clearwater Campus hosted the college’s first Empty Bowls fundraiser on Nov. 12. Volunteers raised more than $3,000 to help RCS Pinellas feed the hungry in Pinellas County.

Empty Bowls brings together artists, educators

Donors enjoyed delicious soup from area eateries and got to pick out a one-of-a-kind bowl to take home with them.

Talented artists from the St. Petersburg College Ceramics Program, the ceramics students from the University of South Florida, Clearwater Catholic High School students, and artists from around Tampa Bay provided thousands of bowls for the fundraiser. Each was a unique and heartfelt creation by some of the best and brightest potters in the bay area.

The arts and education communities have a long history with Empty Bowls fundraisers and the fight against hunger. A Michigan high school teacher created the first Empty Bowls fundraiser. Over the next twenty years, the fundraising effort spread across the country.

The money raised at Saturday’s fundraiser goes directly toward feeding hungry families in Pinellas County. According to RCS Pinellas, the primary demographic they serve in their food pantry are children, ages 5 to 13,  with more than half of the clients they serve are under 18 years of age. The money raised at this Empty Bowls fundraiser will provide more than 3,000 meals for families in need.

St. Petersburg College Fine Arts and Humanities Chair Jonathan Barnes brought together volunteers from Raymond James, the local arts community and SPC students with RCS Pinellas.

During the meal, one volunteer excitedly announced that they had received a $500 donation.

Kim Kirchman, a ceramics and design professor at St. Petersburg College, was very pleased with how the day turned out. “It was a great way to introduce St. Petersburg College, and our artists to the community. Many students receive services from RCS, so this was a great way to give back to the community.”

Learn more about the ceramics program at SPC.

Award-winning organist Thomas Gaynor to perform at SPC

Thomas Gaynor, an award-winning organist, plays the St. Petersburg College Music Center at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus as part of the Heissler Organ Concert Series on Friday, Sept. 23,  at 7 p.m.

General admission is  $10. The concert is free to SPC students and staff with a valid ID card.

Thomas Gaynor, Outstanding Artist

Gaynor was the winner of the Third International Bach-Liszt Organ Competition in Erfurt/Weimar, Germany, the Sydney International Organ Competition, and the Fort Wayne National Organ Playing competition. He is rapidly making his mark on the organ scene in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.


Thomas GaynorA student of David Higgs at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., Gaynor recently graduated with a master of music degree and the Performer’s Certificate. He is currently pursuing his doctor of musical arts degree there, as well as the prestigious Artist’s Certificate.

Gaynor recently released his first CD, recorded at Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul, New Zealand. Jamal Rossi, dean of the Eastman School of Music, picked this CD as one of five recent recordings that best represent the current Eastman School sound in an interview in the Rochester Review, the University of Rochester’s alumni magazine.

The Sept. 23 concert marks Gaynor’s première performance at SPC. This is the perfect opportunity to see a talented musician in top form.

About the Heissler Organ

In 2002, a Heissler tracker pipe organ made of solid oak was installed in the SPC Music Center. It has 1,600 pipes, 24 stops and 31 ranks, three manuals, including a coupling manual, a computer memory system and a Zimbelstern. This organ was built to the specifications of Robert Setzer, faculty organ instructor, consultant and major donor for this project.

The organ was assembled in Markelsheim, Germany, disassembled, packed and shipped. It was reassembled here at the SPC Music Center from December 2001 through February 2002 by Darwin Klug of Heissler in America. The only electronics in the organ are in the air pump, stop action and the very versatile memory, with 256 separate settings available for different applications.

The arts at SPC

Keep up with the latest arts events on the college arts calendar.

Comic Con Pinellas celebrates creativity

Robot at Comic and Maker Con

This year’s local Comic Con (Pinellas Comic and Maker Con- PCMCON) brought more than five thousand people to St. Petersburg College (SPC)Seminole Campus on Saturday, Sept. 10. Now in its third year, the Comic Con convention is doing better than ever!

Comic Con draws crowds to SPC Seminole Campus

The free annual Comic Con event brings together makers, comics, anime, science fiction and horror fans. The first Comic Con event drew more than 3,000 attendees, and was the second largest event at St. Petersburg College Seminole Campus. In 2015, the convention grew to more than 4,000 fans and added additional space to host more vendors and panels. This year’s Comic Con event spread across Seminole Campus from the library and convention center to the University Partnership building.

Creativity rules at Comic Con

This year’s convention featured free talks on subjects from creating a graphic novel to improvisation. Fans celebrated the 50th anniversary of Star Trek with a panel by Kristal Mize on how the series inspired real technology. The event also featured a video game room run by Gamers on the Edge, a group that raises funds for John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. The Serenity Games board game room stayed full, and even overflowed into the hall until the end of the day.

Members of the 501st Imperial Legion, a Star Wars cosplay group, met with fans and posed for photos. Vendors sold everything from model kits, to costume supplies, to 3D printers. Members of St. Petersburg College’s Seminole Campus Web, Arts, and Visual Entertainment Club took documentary video footage. None of this would be possible without a strong community of volunteers.

Learn more about SPC’s A.S. Degree in Digital Arts, Media and Interactive Web Design.

Volunteers power Comic Con

The first PCMCON was planned in just six weeks, but as the event has grown, so has the work behind the scenes. Public library staff, friends of the Seminole Community Library, Greg Plantamura, and campus librarian Chad Mairn worked tirelessly.

“The Maker part of the convention is what makes us different from area comic and anime conventions,” said Chad Mairn, PCMCON organizer and SPC Seminole librarian. He says the do it yourself ethos is an important part of the spirit of the con. See more photos of this year’s convention and more on local Comic Con Facebook page.

Digital creatives headed for success

Digital arts students at SEmmys

St. Petersburg College Digital Arts students  Anna Marie Mazza, Clio Perkins, David Quintana and Maddie Stubbs brought their heart, creativity and work ethic. SPC provided the foundation for the four to excel and achieve a placement in their dream programs at Florida State University, the Ringling College of Art and Design and the University of Florida.

“I wasn’t born into greatness, but I was made for it. I won’t forget my roots, so stay frosty SPC,” Quintana said.

Anna Marie Mazza, Maddie Stubbs, David Quintana and Clio Perkins

The Digital Arts program provides opportunities for students interested in digital media, video production, film making and the graphic arts. Classroom work teaches them the skills and tools they need to succeed. Students have the chance to apply what they learn in the classroom in the field in an internship with leading Tampa Bay area companies like WFLA Channel 8.

Students also get help in building their portfolio, which will have a big impact on their educational and professional future. SPC instructors who encouraged them and career advisors who helped them plan for the future made a big difference to these students. Learn more about career and internship counseling.

Mazza, Perkins, Quintana and Stubbs’ hard work won them the 2016 SEmmy awards and led to their acceptance into the highly competitive programs at FSU, Ringling College and UF. Alumni of these programs have worked at internationally known companies like Facebook and Microsoft.

Each of these students thanked SPC for helping them find their passion and providing them with the training to take it to the next level. Read what these Digital Arts students had to say on the SPC Careers & Internships blog.

SPC’s Digital Arts program provides opportunities in diverse fields from software publishing to public relations to the biggest Hollywood studios! It can also serve as the basis for the next step in a student’s educational journey.