Festival Jurors

2024 Awards Juror

Robin Nicholson

Executive Director
The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art

Robin Nicholson is an innovative ‘outside of the box’ museum professional and art museum director: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts: Deputy Director (2006-2014); Frick Pittsburgh: Executive Director (2014-2019); Telfair Museums, Savannah: CEO and Executive Director (2019-2020), Principal: Art Museum Strategies (2021-2023) The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art, St. Petersburg, Executive Director (2023-Present), who also brings experience of working in the for-profit and gallery worlds. His strengths are imaginative strategic thinking, fund-raising, exhibition planning and execution, and re-envisioning of the art museum model for both the near and long-term future. Nicholson has led several multi-million- dollar campaigns and independently developed two major strategic plans. He has directed the outward-facing aspects of American art museums over the last 16 years: collections, exhibitions, programs, digital initiatives, education, research and scholarship, community outreach, and audience engagement. He has worked with museums nationally and internationally, including Great Britain, Russia, China, Canada, France, Norway, and Italy. Nicholson is committed to the future of art museums and cultural organizations as diverse, equitable, and inclusive institutions that reflect the communities they serve.

2024 Selection Jurors

Sara Felice
Sara Felice
Curator, Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art

Sara Felice
is the Curator of the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs, where she cultivates over fifteen rotating exhibitions per year, implements collegiate and community programming, and develops LRMA’s permanent collection of over 7,000 works of modern and contemporary photography, prints, fine art crafts, paintings and sculpture. She graduated with her BS in Photography from the New England Institute of Art and her MA in Museum Studies from Syracuse University, where she directed Point of Contact Gallery from 2017-2021. Working with artists and writers on a global scale, she has curated, directed and designed exhibitions both in her local communities and nationally.

Outside of her practice as a curator and arts administrator, Sara has been a working professional photographer since 2006.

Kaia L. Magnusen
Kaia L. Magnusen, Ph.D.
Asst. Prof of Art & Design, University of Tampa

Kaia L. Magnusen, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Art and Design, specifically art history and museum studies, at the University of Tampa. Previously, she was an Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Texas at Tyler. She received her doctorate from Rutgers University and her master’s degree from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Magnusen specializes in European and American modern art and international contemporary art. She has independently curated nineteen exhibitions and is in the process of planning an exhibition on the prints of American printmaker D.L. Simmons, which will be on view at the Scarfone/Hartley Gallery at the University of Tampa in Fall 2024. She has interned at, worked at, and/or assisted with exhibitions at the following institutions: the Longview Museum of Fine Arts, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Zimmerli Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museo dell ‘Opera del Duomo in Florence, Italy, the Museum of Biblical Art in New York, and Sculpture Center in Long Island City, New York.

Jorge Vidal
Jorge Vidal
CEO, Florida CraftArt

Jorge Vidal has diverse experiences which have equipped him with a valuable perspective as he has taken on various roles within the Tampa Bay arts community. After working with the exhibitions department at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, and days after receiving a visual arts degree from Eckerd College he was on a plane to NYC where he joined fashion designer Betsey Johnson's team. Upon returning to the area, he co-created and managed two retail stores while engaging in projects with several of the area’s museums. His roles expanded to include Director of Exhibitions at the Morean Arts Center, where he played a key role in the launch of the Chihuly Collection, and later, he developed and directed the Duncan McClellan Gallery. Returning to the MFA as Senior Director of Special Projects, he was the project lead on several initiatives including the reconfiguration of the collection galleries and the curatorial lead on Jewels of the Imagination: Radiant Masterworks by Jean Schlumberger from the Mellon Collection. Most recently, he assumed the role of CEO at Florida CraftArt, a statewide organization of artists whose practice employs craft mediums or techniques, as it maintains a homebase gallery, exhibition space, and low-cost studio spaces in downtown St. Pete.

2024 Emerging Artists Juror

Chad Mize

Multimedia Artist, Designer and Muralist

Chad Mize is a multimedia artist, designer and muralist residing in St. Petersburg, Florida. An early interest in art resulted in his earning a BFA in Visual Communications at the University of Mississippi in 1996. With a love for past and contemporary culture, he takes a humorous, tongue-in-cheek approach to his designs, which include playful doodles, colorful patterns, political artwork and graphics with text. His contributions to the thriving St. Petersburg art scene include working on the SHINE Mural Festival, which brings artists from around the world to paint murals in St. Petersburg. In 2018, Mize opened the gallery MIZE in the Historic Uptown neighborhood of St Petersburg. Following the closing of MIZE in 2022 he set his sights on a larger gallery project entitled SPACE, located on the property of the St. Petersburg Distillery. Mize’s client list has included Disney, Facebook, COACH, Tampa Bay Lightning, Sprouts, Busch Gardens, The Vinoy Hotel, and JW Marriott Tampa Water Street.

Ajeva

Ajeva is a funk/rock band from St. Petersburg, FL. The band started in 2013 and features Reed Skahill (vocals), Taylor Gilchrist (bass), Mike Nivens (guitar), and Lyndon Thacker (keys). They’ve carved out a sound of their own with epic melodies and distinctive vocals that pair perfectly with their deep grooves. Each Ajeva show is a one of a kind experience with the band taking their songs to different places and new heights every night.

Light the Wire

Light the Wire makes heartfelt, indie-folk rock that with powerful vocal harmonies, thoughtful lyrics, and powered by driving bass and drums.  The quintet is based out of Tampa, FL, and released its self-produced, debut EP – “Someday Is Coming” on all streaming platforms on November 1, 2023.

Giorgi

Rock musician that refuses to find a niche

GA & FL

FFO: Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World

Mwiza

Biggest influences are church, his mother, Coheed & Cambria, Acceptance, James Morrison, Bombay Bicycle Club, Disturbed, Arctic Monkeys, Young The Giant, Chevelle, Rusko, Chief and Matt Corby. Most of the music he listens to has a darker sound to it so he in turn makes darker, melodic music.

Datagram

Datagram has been the moniker of shapeshifting Tampa musician Scott Olson for the better part of the last decade.

In that time, the sound and styles of this project have shifted and morphed, painting with shades of glitch, downtempo, techno, and all that lurks in between.

Shevonne and the Force

A multi-hyphenate, genre-bending artist, Shevonne Philidor is a singer-songwriter, producer, and actress who epitomizes her dynamic background in music and performing arts. A military brat born in Philadelphia, PA, she experienced living in multiple cities – including a stint in Italy – before landing in Tampa, Fl, where she nurtured her musical ability throughout her childhood. She’s a scion of a musical family stemming from her half-Haitian descent and taught herself to play the guitar at an early age, inspired by the likes of Prince, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Lauryn Hill, Bob Marley, and M83. In 2003, she made her first TV debut on America’s Most Talented Kids, and in 2010, she made an appearance on America’s Got Talent Wild Card. A recipient of the prestigious NFAA scholarship, she also made American Idol’s top 40 twice in 2016 and 2019, the same year she performed at Austin City Limits with five-time Grammy award-winning artist Gary Clark jr. In 2021, she performed alongside CeeLo Green at a Superbowl party for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was tapped to sing for ABC’s Juneteenth celebration with T.I. and Domani. Working with Grand Hustle Records, she’s a Luna Guitar-endorsed artist who was also selected to perform in Just Blaze’s SXSW showcase in 2022. A theatre kid at heart, she’s flexed her acting skills on a national tour for Todrick Hall’s musical, Oz The Musical, and she was also recently casted in Life’s Rewards, an upcoming Amazon Prime TV show.

Kristopher James

Though he’s lived in the Sunshine State, for most of his life, Kristopher’s talent for melody and song (now) extend far past the state’s line. Like his influencers Otis Redding, Amos Lee, and Roberta Flack, Kristopher’s voice is clear, controlled, and full of all-the-feels.  As with all artists, Kristopher’s sound has ebbed and flowed, evolving yet remaining instantly recognizable. With the growth he’s experienced as an artist, Kristopher felt it was time to capture his songs, in their fully-imagined sound!

With his debut album “Kindness Never Quits”, featuring members of Scary Pockets, Kristopher caught the attention of Relix & Glide Magazine, Spotify Playlist curators and continued praise, such as “vocals are so powerful and as the song progresses, he showcases why he is one of the best singers out there. All that soul in one artist is just unbelievable” from Reignland Magazine.

Continuing through the COVID years, Kristopher partnered with musicians to keep the music and community alive. Along with composer and keys player Mike Hicks of Rascal Flatts, The War & Treaty’s Max Brown on guitar, as well as talented artists Kyshona Armstrong, Jonathan Huber, DeMarco Johnson, Kristopher released 3 acclaimed singles: “Never Had to Find Our Way”, “Feelings” and “I Can Only Love You in a Song”

Deaf Company

Three piece Rock n Roll band hailing from St. Petersburg, FL.

Skyler Golden

Musician from St. Pete Florida and Studio Producer for Zen Recording. Brings an eclectic sound of string instruments for the Yoga Classes at GFA 2024

SydLive

From Tampa Florida, SydLive was born to write and sing songs that touch the world. As her mother recalls, her climb to stardom began with getting on top of restaurant tables to sing at the age of two.

By the time she was eleven, she acquired her first guitar and began to teach herself to play by learning Beatles songs. Within four years she found her way to the stage singing in a Carpenters tribute band. Since this time, Syd has amassed over a decade of experience as a professional singer/songwriter and recording/performance artist. Within the industry, she names Aretha Franklin as her idol.

DURRY

The first sound you hear on Durry’s rambunctious and poignant debut album, Suburban Legend, is an old-school Internet dial-up tone. To songwriter Austin Durry, the sound is instantly familiar but his bandmate and sister, Taryn, hadn’t heard it before. The Burnsville, Minnesota-based duo might identify with different age groups — with seven years between them, Austin is a millennial and Taryn is Gen Z — but by joining forces in Durry, they show just how much the neighboring generations have in common.

Between their serendipitous origin story and a crop of dynamic, hook-heavy alt-pop tracks, Durry are doing something few bands can achieve — and they’re doing it entirely on their own terms. As a band, Taryn and Austin’s journey happened both unexpectedly and fortuitously. At the start of the COVID pandemic, Austin and his wife moved back into his parents’ house, where Taryn was also living at the time. In addition to moving back in with his family, COVID forced Austin to cancel an extensive tour with his previous band, Coyote Kid. Faced with nothing but time, he got back to songwriting, regularly asking Taryn for input — or as the two playfully put it, “Gen Z quality control.”

“I’d say, here’s an early concept, what do you think? Then she’ll steer the ship, and then I’ll evolve it from there,” Austin explains. “Taryn is the sounding board and Gen Z vision of the band, where I’m kinda cranking stuff out.”

As they got going, forming what would turn into Durry, the siblings also outlined DIY ideas for branding and promotion, creating all of their own content and imbuing their visuals with nostalgic golden yellow, large fonts, and tactile images that would later make their way into eye-catching merch.

The immediate result of their musical partnership was the pop-punk/alternative anthem “Who’s Laughing Now,” which leads with wry, tongue-in-cheek lyrics about the futility of young adulthood in 2023: “My mama always said I would regret it if I ever got a tattoo,” Austin chants, adding: “She said I’d never get a job like I ever wanted one with that attitude/ My dad said I had to learn to drive a stick shift, but every van I ever had was an automatic/ My friends said that someday I would make it big, but I’m still living in the basement.”

After posting an unfinished version of “Who’s Laughing Now” on TikTok, it swiftly took off, galvanizing thousands of viewers who shared their coming-of-age frustrations. Clearly, the song’s sentiments — which land somewhere between a shrug and a clenched fist — resonated with millions of listeners, and today the song has garnered more than four million Spotify streams. Meanwhile, Durry have recorded a fully fleshed-out version of “Who’s Laughing Now,” which is set to appear on their riveting, perfectly sardonic debut LP, Suburban Legend.