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Local artists and their works recognized as Lightning host first-ever Celebration of the Arts

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

Penny Vinik admitted that it is not too often when the worlds of hockey and the arts collide.

They did, though, on Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and the result “was amazing.”

The Lightning hosted their inaugural Celebration of the Arts inside the Firestick Grill, where members of the organization, the Lightning Foundation, as well as owner Jeff Vinik and his wife, Penny, unveiled 41 selected pieces of art to be featured on the Executive Suite Level of the building for the next 12 months.

Jeff and Penny Vinik pose with a Celebration of the Arts featured artist at the awards event held at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Previously, members of the local arts community were encouraged to submit pieces of original artwork to be hung for display at the Times Forum, showcasing the Bay Area’s vibrant artistic talent to approximately 1.5 million visitors who visit the building annually.

While the artwork itself took center stage throughout the night, the evening was just as much a celebration to recognize the creative Bay Area residents who produced each piece and submitted their respective works to be evaluated by a prestigious panel of judges.

“The idea was to incorporate the arts into the hockey community and into the Forum itself,” Penny Vinik said. “We were overwhelmed with such a positive response, but just as honored to recognize all of the talented individuals and their outstanding work. We hope this event can be even more successful next year.”

The evening kicked off with introductions from emcee Rick Peckham, who called up to the podium the Viniks and three executive directors from Bay Area museums, including Todd Smith from the Tampa Museum of Art, Dr. Hank Kine of the Dali Museum, and Dr. Kent Lydecker of the Museum of Fine Arts.

The group initially had come together for the first time ever to collaborate on the Celebration of the Arts project, as well as to serve as the event’s panel of judges. In all, the group critiqued nearly 300 original submissions of art and narrowed the field down to the final 41 which would be on display at the Times Forum.

Among the pieces to be displayed also included one commissioned item that was not subject to the judging. That work, in particular, was completed Thursday night in front of all in attendance, in which world-renowned artist, and Florida resident, Derek Gores, alongside Kelly Kreg, a spirited young artist with physical and developmental challenges, put the finishing touches on a torn collage portrait representing the famous shows that make the Times Forum one of the most attended venues in the United States.

Several artists were also recognized as “honorable mentions” and took home a $250 cash prize. Of the three finalists, Brandon Marshall was awarded a third-place prize of $500 cash for his work entitled “Ice Bubbles,” while the second-place prize of $1,000 cash was handed out to Brad Bazin for his piece, “Lowry Park Zoo.” Nicole Abbett emerged as the big winner on the night, taking home the first-place prize of $1,500 for “Sacred Heart Church.”

“It was great to see all the local artists and their works, and more importantly, how the Lightning organization and all of the members of the community here tonight are utilizing a great outlet such as the arts to come together,” Jeff Vinik said. “From what I’ve seen here, I can say that it is truly phenomenal.”

The inspiration for the event came not from one individual, but the rich culture of arts embedded in the Tampa Bay culture, pioneered by the creativity and imagination of local artists such as those who attended Thursday’s celebration.

Following the ceremony within the Firestick Grill, all members were invited to enjoy an accompanying suite tasting event, which included sampling various food items, complimentary beverages, and a first-look at the Times Forum’s new décor made possible of course through the works of art.

“This was all possible only through all of the wonderful people who contributed to this event, from the artists themselves, to the panel of judges, and to those within our own organization,” Jeff Vinik added. “It certainly is impactful, and I will say that I’m sure glad each and every one of them are on our team.”

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