The Latest

Where Are They Now?

GFA Emerging Artist Amy Ilic-Volpe

Amy Ilic-Volpe and a some of her artwork

As we prepare to open the Emerging Artists application period on November 6, GFA’s VP Clay Hollenkamp takes a deep dive into how three Emerging Artists’ careers have blossomed after their first appearance at the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts. 

Nurturing artistic talent and supporting emerging artists are an essential part of Gasparilla Festival of the Arts’ mission. This commitment isn’t just lip service; it’s the driving force behind a program that has become a true stepping stone for budding artists.  Since 1995, GFA’s Emerging Artists Program has welcomed up-and-coming artists to present and sell their work to the 30,000+ people who attend the event each year and the mentoring opportunities that accompany acceptance to the program provide valuable information about the business of the arts that will benefit artists are their career grows. 

But just what is an “emerging artist”? 

In many ways, this question has to be answered by the artists themselves but for the purposes of GFA, an emerging artist is one who doesn’t have a record of participating in major shows, festivals or exhibitions, makes less than 25% of their income from the sale of their art and is not employed professionally as an artist working in the medium they would exhibit at the Festival.   

 In the almost 30 years since GFA’s Emerging Artists Program began, we have seen artists take many paths.  Quite a few have gone on to become travelling festival artists who participate in festivals like GFA all over the country.  Some are now represented by major galleries and others have opened their own galleries.  There are as many different paths are there are artists. 

Today, we would like to tell you about three of our past emerging artists in a sort of “where are they now” article. 

While they have gone in different directions, GFA is proud to have played a role in each artist’s career. 

Digital art by Amy Illic- Volpe, untitled.

Amy Ilic-Volpe was a member of the Emerging Artists Program, Class of 2022. 

She was also selected as the Emerging Artist Prize winner that year.  When Amy applied to the Program, her work was primarily mixed-media, abstract, sculptural wall-hangings full of vibrant colors and textures.  Since she completed the Program and purchased an Ipad with her award winnings, she has begun experimenting with digital techniques and themes of her work have become more personal.

 “Working in digital painting and illustration I have started producing slightly more representational work, but still with my trademark bright, bold, abstract aesthetic,” Amy said. “Through this, I have recently begun exploring mental health themes that are personal to me.”

About her experience with the Emerging Artist Program, Amy found that it helped her “make connections within the community and gave [her] an element of creditability and exposure.”  Since 2022, she was invited to be a Shine Mural Festival: Bright Spot Artist and she is currently one of nine artists who were chosen to paint signal boxes all over Pinellas County as part of Creative Pinellas’ Artworks Signal Box Project.  The box she’s designing will be on the Pinellas Trail.

 You can also find Amy at the Morean Art Center where she has had a long tenure.  She teaches youth classes and led a youth art camp this past summer.  She is also excited to be renewing a partnership with ASTRA Aromatherapy as they open a brick and mortar location on Central Avenue in St. Pete.  You’ll be able to find her work there along with that of other creatives.  Visit Amy’s website for more information and to contact her: and find her on Instagram @Amy_Ilic_Volpe.

Ride For Your Favorite Artist Like You Ride For Your Favorite Sports Team, Installation piece by Emiliano Settecasi

Emiliano Settecasi was a member of the GFA Emerging Artists Program, Class of 2018. 

Emiliano remains a prolific artist whose work is shown in numerous galleries, but he’s also taken on the role of gallerist.  Shortly after the 2018 Festival, Emiliano accepted a position with Gallery 221@HCC at the Dale Mabry Campus of Hillsborough Community College where he had the chance to work with other artists to mount their exhibitions and share work with the general public and the students who attend the college.  After four years with HCC, Emiliano left to open his own gallery, The Department of Contemporary Art, Tampa, FL, in the Kress Building in Ybor City. 

The Green Hand by Emiliano Settecasi

 Emiliano’s art has always been influenced by contemporary design, branding and advertising and adopted a critical eye towards the concept of the “individual as a brand,” but since 2018, he has turned inward and allowed himself to become more vulnerable.  His current work often includes references to his own identity and parts of himself with which he’s insecure, such as his affected left hand.  Always including a bit of absurdity and irony into his work, Emiliano uses these themes to critique commercial culture and modern society with a specific concern for climate change.   

Artist Emiliano Settacasi.

 You can find Emiliano at the Department of Contemporary Art, Tampa, FL on Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons.  He doesn’t show his own work there but by selecting the artists he presents, he still brings a bit of his perspective to each exhibition.  Some of Emiliano’s work will be on display at Gallery 221@HCC until October and Gallery 3@HCC until February.  Contact Emiliano at his website,  You can find him on Instagram at @esettecasi and follow his gallery at @departmentofcontemporaryarttp.

Being an Emerging Artist in 2013 led to 8 more appearances at GFA.

Lissa Hatcher was a member of the Emerging Artists Program 2013.

Since that time, she has presented her work in GFA’s main festival eight more times, winning an Award of Merit in 2015.  Since her time in GFA’s Emerging Artists Program, Lissa’s career has expanded dramatically.  Her surrealist photography has been exhibited in multiple galleries and ad campaigns and has been featured in magazines, in the Tampa Bay Times and on ABC Action News in Tampa.  Her work has even been shown on the marquee at the Tampa Theater and on jumbotron at Amalie Arena.

Over the past decade, Lissa has gained more confidence in her work and voice.  This has allowed her to become a full-time artist and to broaden her practice to include literary arts.   Many of her pieces now include her writing and she has several stand-alone books in process.  The response to one of her installation pieces even led her to establish a tea company, Morbid Curiositea.   She does all of the design work, package art, copy writing, and even blending the teas.  In 2024, Lissa will be launching a whole new project called House of Curiositea that will showcase the entire whimsical world she has created with her art and writing.

Lissa Hatcher’s work entitled Weeds.

She describes her current work as “hopeful with a dark twist” and “full of childlike wonder, surrealistic and narrative in nature.”  Lissa is taking 2023 off from presenting her work and teaching to focus on her many projects.  You can find more information about her art by visiting her website: or her Instagram @LIssaHatcher.  You can try her teas by visiting her at a local farmers market and following @MorbidCuriositea on Instagram.  Lissa’s art and teas are also featured at The Merchant general store in St. Petersburg.

GFA’s Emerging Artists Program has truly become a rite of passage for the more than 300 artists who have participated in the past 28 years. 

As you can see above, the Program has been a first step for art careers that have taken a variety of paths.  GFA is extremely proud of every artist who participates and are excited to meet the Class of 2024.  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 from early October until November 26, 2023.  Visit the Emerging Artists Program page on our website for details about eligibility and to find the application when it opens.  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.