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New Board Members and Officers Bring Fresh Energy and Expertise to GFA

May was an exciting month for GFA as new Board Members and Officers were elected to lead the organization. The importance of strong leadership in an all-volunteer organization like GFA cannot be overstated, and this year’s elected Voting Board Members truly reflect the commitment to succession planning. With a challenging slate of candidates and one of the largest and most qualified applicant pools in recent history, the Voting Board had the task of selecting the best individuals to fill the available positions.

Six outstanding individuals were chosen to join the Voting Board. GFA warmly welcomes Alexis Mootoo, Bernadette Casey, Clay Hollenkamp, Derek Johnson, Jeff Nader, and Patt Fosnaught to its esteemed Board of Directors. Joy Jansen, Karen Price, and Sandra Sroka were elected to second terms on the Board.  Several of the above were also elected to serve as board officers.

 Let’s take a closer look at the accomplished individuals who have joined the Board or been elected to officer positions:

Bernadette Casey – New Board Member:

Bernadette brings extensive experience working with nonprofit Boards of Directors and currently serves as the Development Director for the Pace Center for Girls in Hillsborough County. Her expertise in fundraising and development will be invaluable to GFA. During her tenure as the Development Director for the Tampa Museum of Art, Bernadette successfully secured support from major donors, oversaw exhibition openings, and managed a large budget.

Patt Fosnaught – Past and Returning Board Member:

Patt’s dedication to GFA spans over 30 years, making her one of the longest-serving supporters of the organization. As an experienced art educator, she has contributed significantly to the promotion of emerging artists and has played key roles in various GFA initiatives. Her focus on Festival rules and bringing in qualified candidates for Festival judges has been invaluable. Notably, Patt served as the Anniversary Committee Chair for GFA’s 50th Anniversary, overseeing multiple special events and exhibitions.

Clay Hollenkamp – New Board Member and Incoming Board Vice President:

Clay is a passionate advocate for GFA, having served as the Festival Co-Chair for the 53rd annual festival. He has been involved in non-profit arts administration and development for over a decade and recently became a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE). Clay’s contributions to the arts extend beyond GFA, as he has been actively involved in the arts community through various roles, including being a board member at the Arts Council of Hillsborough County President of the Board of Directors of Make Plant City and co-founder of Periphery Media, which presents art exhibitions for local emerging artists.

Joy Jansen – Re-elected Board Member and Incoming Treasurer:

Joy’s deep appreciation for art stems from her upbringing and her mother’s influence. With 30 years of finance and management experience, including executive leadership roles, Joy is well-equipped to handle the financial responsibilities of the organization. Her focus on building relationships and creating positive impacts aligns perfectly with GFA’s mission. Currently, she serves as the Vice President of Finance for Amalie Oil Company.

 Derek Johnson – New Board Member:

Derek’s passion for art was instilled by his grandmother, who nurtured his creativity and appreciation for artistic expression. In his professional life, he has excelled in business development and finance, generating substantial revenue for the firms he has worked for. Derek’s strong background in business administration and relationship-building will undoubtedly contribute to GFA’s success.

 Alexis Mootoo, PhD, MBA – New Board Member:

Alexis is deeply committed to the transformative power of the arts in bridging gaps between diverse communities. Her leadership positions at the University of South Florida and her involvement with the Straz Performing Arts Center demonstrate her dedication to fostering community engagement through the arts. Alexis brings extensive strategic leadership experience and a passion for empowering students and the community.

 Jeffrey Nader – New Board Member:

Jeffrey Nader is a passionate designer with a deep-rooted love for the arts. For the past 16 years, his affinity for the arts has been a driving force in his career, stemming from his innate desire to create and craft that began at an early age.  He is also a culinary artist.  In 2020, he joined GFA as a Festival committee volunteer, and ultimately rose to the position of Festival co-chair for the 53rd Annual Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts.  GFA’s mission fits well with Nader’s desire to showcase the transformative power of the arts and foster a sense of community and inspiration.

 Karen Price – Re-Elected Board Member and Incoming Board President:

Karen was GFA’s Treasurer in 2022-23 and has been an invaluable member of the Board since 2021. Her dedication to detail and process-oriented approach has enriched her understanding of all facets of GFA during her three-year tenure. With a successful career as a CPA, Karen brings a wealth of experience in business advisory and tax planning solutions to the organization.

 Sandra Sroka – Re-Elected Board Member and Incoming Board Secretary:

Sandra’s appreciation and involvement in the arts have been significantly enriched by her experience with GFA. With over 40 years of administrative experience in the health and disability fields, both in the public and private sector, Sandra brings a wealth of expertise to her role on the Board. She has been instrumental in ensuring compliance with disability rights laws and now serves as the Adult Program Coordinator for Arts4ALL Florida, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting arts education for individuals with disabilities.

GFA would also like to express its heartfelt gratitude to the outgoing leadership, who have played pivotal roles in GFA’s achievements.

Diane Buckley-Altwies, outgoing President; Tara Knauss-Wilga, outgoing Vice President; Karen Price, outgoing Treasurer (now President); and Erika George, outgoing Secretary, have provided dynamic and committed leadership to the organization. The Festival Co-Chairs, Clay Hollenkamp (now Festival Vice President), Jeff Nader (now Board Member), and Sabrina Pollard, deserve special recognition for their passion and dedication in making GFA 53 a record-breaking year.

GFA invites everyone to watch the video recap of GFA 53, which can be found here, to relive the excitement and success of the event. With the newly elected Board Members and Officers at the helm, GFA is poised to continue its positive trajectory and further advance its mission of promoting the arts in the community.

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.