The Beaux Arts Book
Introduction by Mari Eliza
I decided to take on the task of writing a book about Beaux Arts, because no one else had, and the story is one that needs telling. Everyone who knows Tom and Beaux Arts, knows the book cannot be written by one person, any more than one musician or artist can describe the work that came out of it. The story needs multiple voices to paint a picture of the place that launched multiple careers, kindled many friendships, and settled in our memories. I am putting out a call to everyone who ever felt a twinge of gratitude toward Tom and his tireless effort to inspire people to follow their dreams, instead of wallow in them. Contact us with stories, art and photos for inclusion in the book.
Tom is a lifelong artist and enthusiast. His masterpiece is the Beaux Arts Coffee House and Gallery. After years of studying art and theatre, all over America and England Tom got his teaching credentials and returned to Pinellas Park to establish his own modern art center. He supported emerging artists and alternative lifestyles long before they were accepted by the ultra conservative community of South Florida.
Tom and Beaux Arts beat the odds by surviving all social and cultural changes from the beats in the 50's, through the turbulent end of the twentieth century, into the present. I set out on a journey to discover what motivated Tom to devote so much of his life to creating a safe haven for art to thrive. What I found is an incredible thirst for knowledge and a desire to share it with others.
One of my earliest mentors was Tom, though I didn't realize it at the time. I was a smart teenager, too young for the bars and tired of local bands attempting to play rock cover songs in what passed for the Tampa Teen Rock Scene at the time. If I heard one more bad version of "Gloria" on a lousy sound system I was gonna puke. I was on the prowl for some good sounds, and ready for a new boyfriend.
One of the older boys in school, heard my complaints, and turned me onto the place where he played folk music. He was more interesting than most of the other kids, so I figured I would check it out. I remember it was easy to find, right off the Gandy bridge, in back of the Pinellas Park Sheriff station, and lit up like a Christmas tree. After the first visit, I was hooked.
I was seventeen, had my father's car, and gas money from a job at a bowling alley restaurant. On my nights off work, I would drive across the Gandy bridge toward the long line of headlights, low on the water, into the rising moon and my destiny for the night. Some nights I'd go with friends, other nights I'd go alone.
Something about the place kept bringing me back. The sounds of acoustic music were soothing. The people were older and hipper. I knew I belonged in their world, whatever it was. The underground films Tom ran in the front room opened my eyes to new possibilities, away from the oppressive Florida sun and the repressive political landscape. I was an artist and I wanted a clean pallet and a fresh start in a cool place. I dreamed about running away to California or New York. After two years I did. Meanwhile, Beaux Arts soothed my soul.
Writing this book is my way of sharing some of the magic of a place that meant a lot to me. I hope to inspire new Beaux Arts. The world can always use another muse, another place to for creative minds to mingle.