The 2nd Annual Ties and Tennis Shoes Gala, held at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Friday, December 6th, was a great success as both a unique evening gala of fun, and a fundraiser to benefit the Pinellas Education Foundation. Guests dressed in fine holiday attire and played games like kids on the floor of the dome. This whimsical experience featured interactive sporting stations, such as kicking a soccer ball into a net or Radar Pitch Baseball, hosted by celebrities and professional players. Matt Joyce, Brandon Gomes and Jake McGee were Honorary Co-chairs of the event. There were bean bags thrown, and the Hooter's Girls hosted the Corn Husk Toss, while players were encouraged by professional cheerleaders and team mascots.
Painting with a Twist, the original St. Petersburg "paint and sip" studio, donated their venue on three evenings prior to the event so that folks could decorate their tennis shoes. Their instructors volunteered time to help adults and children with the painting and the studio provided all the paint and "bling." That was the "twist" idea of the Ties and Tennis Shoes event, that the shoes people would play in would be decorated, and judged in a contest. Prizes were awarded for the best decorated shoes, including gift certificates from Painting with a Twist. There was a silent auction, and generous donations were given, such as a check for $48,000 from the St. Pete Kiwanis Club. Marvin Gay, owner of Painting with a Twist, is a member of the Kiwanis Club.
"This is a great way to celebrate the holidays," said Marvin. Leslie Gay, his wife and co-owner of their two Painting with a Twist studios, said, "This is so much fun, and so much bigger and better than last year. It's great to see the event is growing." The couple have been involved in this event since its inception. Last year, Leslie and Marvin brought a booth and an artist that painted live. This year, their tables were even more interactive, as they brought two artist-instructors who assisted people to paint their own free, small canvases already prepared to be ornaments, suitable for hanging on a tree. They were painted by people who chose from a myriad of designs available, everything from turtles to traditional Christmas images, or a reindeer drinking a glass of beer with a menorah for antlers. The artists drew the pictures for folks who requested them, so the people could just brush on the paint and glitter. It was all in fun, and a way to introduce the popular painting classes offered by Marvin in Tampa and Leslie in St. Petersburg. You can see pictures from the free first, second and third shoe painting parties held in St. Petersburg prior to the Gala.
Companies were able to reserve space and hold their holiday parties within the event. It was a way to have an office party out of the office, with a DJ, music and room to roam about. There were performances by some very talented young people. The Pinellas Education Foundation posted pictures from the event on their Facebook page.
"The Pinellas Education Foundation is a coalition of business and community leaders who work together to improve the quality of public education. They do this by advocating for public education reform, creating programs to improve student and teacher performance, and raising funds for scholarships, grants and teacher recognition. Some of the most successful Foundation programs are Youth Connect, the TSIC/Doorways Scholarship Program, Enterprise Village and Finance Park, Teach for Excellence Classroom Grants, and the Frances Stavros Career Education Scholarships."
"Founded in 1986 by Chairman Emeritus, Dr. Gus A. Stavros, the Pinellas Education Foundation has raised more than $110 million to support the students and teachers of Pinellas County Schools and is consistently ranked among the top public school education foundations in the United States. The Pinellas Education Foundation is passionately committed to providing all students with the opportunity to be successful."
"The Pinellas Education Foundation is a not-for-profit, 501 © 3 organization and has received the coveted Four Star rating for sound fiscal management by The Charity Navigator. This rating indicates that it outperforms most charities in America in its efforts to operate in the most fiscally responsible way." - from the web site
The owners of Painting with a Twist have been donating money to education, and other nonprofits and worthy charities on a monthly basis from the time they opened four years ago. It is part of their company mission to actively contribute to their local community. They do this by holding monthly "Painting with a Purpose" classes, which often sell out. Half of the proceeds collected from the class is immediately given to the non-profit the evening of the class.
Along with helping community organizations directly by contributing through Painting with a Purpose events, Painting with a Twist has been an important part of the Tampa Bay area art scene. They provide employment for local professional artists, they bring more people in the public into a creative environment and they get them involved in creating visual art. They increase public awareness of the process of making visual art and bring an appreciation for excellent quality art created by professional artists. Their classes make art seem less intimidating, with their slogan of "fun art, not fine art." The paintings they teach are actually very good compositions, and people who felt that they "were not artistic at all" are regularly happily surprised by the results they are able to obtain in the classes. It is a form of popular art education that is really taking off. The St. Petersburg location of Painting with a Twist is the first franchise that was opened by this company, and there are now over one hundred of the franchises, with the company still growing. Marvin and Leslie Gay have provided leadership for other franchises, and they've shown that an art business can succeed and grow, even in these last recent years of recession.
Painting with a Twist is located at 2527 Central Avenue in St. Petersburg (727-327-4488) , and at 2821 South Mac Dill Ave in Tampa (813-839-2409). They post pictures from all their classes on their Facebook pages -St. Petersburg and Tampa, and you can reserve a seat to their classes on their web sites - St. Petersburg and Tampa.