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This Is The Final Call To Apply To Be An Emerging Artist At GFA 54.

GFA Emerging Artist
Mark Lembo, shown here from last year’s Festival, hope to again be selected to be an Emerging Artist in 2024.

Part of Gasparilla Festival of the Arts’ mission is to strengthen the culture and appreciation of the Fine Arts throughout the Tampa Bay area. Back in September, we featured three Emerging Artists from past festivals to see how the program benefitted their burgeoning art careers.  Today, we’re reaching out to some of the applicants who hope to be selected for 2024’s Emerging Artist class to get their thoughts on where the Program might take them.

The Emerging Artists Program allows up and coming artists to present their work to a large audience in a professional setting, often for the first time.

Applicants qualify if they do not have an established record as a professional artist presenting their work in museums, major art festivals, galleries, or juried exhibitions prior to applying. Qualified artists must make less than 25% of their income from art sales and cannot be employed professionally as an artist working in the medium they present at the festival.

Last year, we had a record-breaking number of applications for the Emerging Artists program, with almost 200 applicants.

Artists that are selected are given their very own tent at the Festival to present and sell their work, plus a reimbursement of $375 towards expenses incurred when building out their booth. During the lead-up to the Festival, selected artists are offered mentoring opportunities from established Tampa Bay artists and arts administrators.  One of the 15 program participants will take home the Emerging Artists Award, which includes a $1,500 cash prize.

We asked two Emerging Artist applicants a series of questions in order to gain some perspective on how they view our program. Our first applicant is Mark Lembo.

He is a self-taught artist who relocated from California to Tampa in 2010. He describes his art style as “spontaneous” and “free”, and it is evident in his work that he values experimentation and play in his artistic process. You can see examples of his art below.  An avid festival goer, he has attended the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts since moving to the area. “I appreciate the diversity of works and the unbounded creativity” he says, when speaking of his favorite part of the festival.

What drew you to applying for the Emerging Artists Program?

”It is an opportunity to gain impactful recognition and exposure in Tampa and beyond the surrounding area… The stature and reputation of the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts is huge. Being a part of the festival would be tremendous.”

“It has the potential to build on the groundwork laid out locally these past three years. While I have been fairly active in local exhibits and venues, the Festival and the Emerging Artists Program provide an opportunity to further expand my reach to a whole new level and to have the chance to share my work with a much wider audience. You never know where a connection may lead.”

Meet Emerging Artist Brenna Robe.

Emerging Artist applicant for GFA 54 Brenna Robe.

Our second applicant is Brenna Robe, a wildlife artist who focuses on Florida’s fauna, specifically birds. She excels at creating a lush, natural environment in her art that captures the feeling of awe she experiences in the wild. 

“I try to capture one moment, a moment which will never be repeated because there is no permanence in life.”

What drew you to applying for the Emerging Artists Program?

“The Emerging Artist Program drew me because it alleviates the pressure of being an established artist. Many calls to artists include artists in all stages of their career, while this program is specifically geared towards artists who are just breaking out into the professional art world. Although I’ve been a practicing artist for most of my life, this program felt the most appropriate to support me at this point in my journey. The application is simple and accessible, as they do not expect you to have a huge CV.”

In this piece, wildlife artist Brenna Robe beautifully captures the endangered Florida scrub jay.

If you were to be selected as an Emerging Artist, how do you feel it would impact your career?

“I try to put my best foot forward, be proud of my attempts and learn from my mistakes. If I am selected as an Emerging Artist, I hope to receive exposure as well as mentoring in my art career. I believe this would help me to improve both artistically and professionally. I’m in the beginning stage of my professional creative journey, and I’m discovering so many opportunities for artists. This year alone, I entered a gallery exhibition and just completed my first market sale. It is terrifying to try new things and put my art out there to be judged, but it has been paying off so much.”

We wish these two applicants and everyone who applies the best of luck. The Application window is only open until midnight on November 26, 2023.

The 2024 Emerging Artists Program juror, multimedia artist and curator Chad Mize, will review applications and select the class in December of 2023.

If you are interested in applying to the Emerging Artists Program for the 54th Annual Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts on March 2nd and 3rd of 2024, the application window will be open until November 26, 2023.  Visit the Emerging Artists Program page on our website for details about eligibility and to find the application.  You can also email with specific questions.


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.


Rock musician that refuses to find a niche


FFO: Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World


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 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


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.


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.