Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Vinik Family Foundation presents The Beach Tampa.


The Beach Tampa is an interactive architecture installation in the Amalie Arena. Created by Snarkitecture, This 15,000 square foot immersive environment features an ocean of 1.2 million recyclable and antimicrobial white balls. Open to the public at no cost thanks to The Vinik Family Foundation, the beach will remain open until August 25th 2016. The environment is created on the floor of the arena using construction materials such as scaffolding, wall panels, and perforated mesh.

Performance artist Brian Feldman told me about the exhibit. He tried to get in on a weekend but there was a line for tickets. When he did get his ticket the entry time was for six hours later. He got sidetracked at an art event in St. Petersburg and didn't get back to the Arena. We decided to take a day trip during the week. This time there was no line. At the entrance guests are offered free ice cream. White fabrics lined all the halls leading to the beach, creating a sense of wonder and anticipation.

Security checked all bags and a metal detector wand checked for metal. My pencils kept setting off the metal detector but I ultimate made it through. There are free lockers available if you want to leave personal items behind before entering the beach. A volunteer questioned my artist chair but let me pass.  There were plenty of white beach chairs inside, but they were set back away from the 75-foot-wide beach shore. I set up right at the shore's edge where all the action was.

Within minutes of arriving, Brian spotted an olde woman who looked like she was in distress. Only her head was above the balls and she was sinking down as if in quick sand. Her face was red and her eyes panicked. I let a lifeguard know and she threw out a life preserver. Several more lifeguards moved in and tried to lift the woman. She was very heavy and it took three people to get her out. Later I saw another elder couple also struggling to get out. The woman seemed stuck, but her partner managed to help get her back to shore. Later, as she struggled to catch her breath in a beach chair she said, "That was exhilarating." Brian waded out and submerged until only his head was visible. A woman with beautiful black hair lay back on the sea foam of balls and spread her hair out as if a Victorian muse. Perhaps that selfie will be her next Facebook profile photo. There must be millions of selfies shot at the beach every day. Mirrors surround the ocean of balls increasing the feeling of an open expanse. The Beach signage is presented backwards and forwards so that any digital image will have the signage facing the right way if you aim your cell phone at the right angle.

I waded in once my sketch was done. A lifeguard warned me to empty my pockets since the pressure of all the balls tends to push objects out of pockets. I left me keys change and wallet in my sneakers at the shore's edge. When this huge ball pit is emptied there will be a treasure trove of objects to be found at the bottom. Brian took a few photos as I struggled in the balls. If you lay back and sink to the bottom it can be hard to get back up. Children know instinctively how to roll and get up. It is the adults who are more prone to panic.  Swimming in balls is a good workout. I was exhausted from my short exuberant swim. Afterwards, Brian navigated us to Gourmet Pizza Company, (610 S Armenia Ave, Tampa, FL), a pizza parlor offering vegan and gluten-free options , and I must admit it was the best pizza I ever had.

If you want to have a fun time, the drive west on I-4 to Tampa is well worth it. You only have until August 25th to experience the beach for yourself.

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