The roots of The Artists and Writers Group are found in the “Artists and Writers Ball”, a hugely un-serious annual event in the late 1970s and 1980s in Tampa’s arts and historical old town of Ybor City.
Back then, the “Ball” spoofed the mardi gras atmosphere of Tampa’s better known Gasparilla parties. Each ball featured a theme guaranteed to inspire the most outrageous costumes and satirical musical performances and skits. At its heyday, the “Artists and Writers Ball” filled all four floors of Ybor City’s Cuban Club with several thousand of the faithful.
Older and a little tamer now, The Artists and Writers Group, has transformed itself into a non-profit organization dedicated to producing art, literature and performance events for Tampa area residents.
Currently, The Artists and Writers Group presents three annual special events, all centered in Ybor City.
A Little History
From the Wikipedia article:
“In the late 70’s, photographer Bud Lee moved to Tampa, Florida, as part of the National Endowment for the Arts Artists-in-Schools program. While working in the Artists-in-Schools program, Lee married art teacher Peggy Laseter and they moved into a storefront in Ybor City. At the time, Ybor City, a historic Cuban part of Tampa, was home to many working artists and Lee saw the oppotunity to create an event that would bring all the creative energy of Ybor City and Tampa together. It would be the underground’s alternative to the exclusive Gasparilla parties held by Tampa’s social clubs.
“The Artists and Writers Ball was to be an antidote or spoof of the Gasparilla parties. It was to be a themed costumed Ball that encouraged all to participate through action, spirit and costume. The first Ball, ‘Dante’s Inferno’, was held in the ballroom at the historic Cuban Club in 1978. A local welder, Sam Parker, and entertainer, Ana Tampanna, were introduced as king and queen during a procession in which Tampanna paraded through the crowd in a peacock costume. The Artists and Writers Ball became an annual event with such themes as: ‘Cowboys and Indians in Love’, ‘Bad Taste in Outer Space’, ‘The Dizzy Dali Ball’, ‘Calhoun’s Little Hawaiian Circus for the Poor’, and ‘The B.C. Ball’. It, also, expanded from the ballroom to encompass the entire four floors and patio of the Cuban Club attracting thousands of participants.
“What little money was made went into other Artists and Writers Group activities, such as, a magazine called Tabloid, the Artists and Writers Cafe and a few variety shows, Fellini’s Birthday Party and The USO Show.
“The Artists and Writers Ball eventually ended due to rising insurance rates.
“In October 2006, a new incarnation of the Artists and Writers Group led by David Audet hosted ‘The Reunion Ball’, its first ball in 15 years.”