It’s no secret that Paul Wilborn, the city’s “creative industries manager,” has lots of folks in his eclectic corner wishing him well — and hoping for the best. These can be daunting times for the arts.
In a better position than most to know exactly how formidable is the Wilborn task is Kurt Loft of the Tampa Tribune. No one locally, certainly not in the media, approaches him as a “Renaissance man.” The veteran reporter’s writings range from anything in the sciences to anything on stage. He also knows his way around fine dining, as his restaurant reviews attest.
“I’m curious to see if this is going to work,” says Loft. “The city is financially strapped. Paul’s a pioneer in this role. I think we’re all waiting to see how well he works it and nurtures it. The guy has a lot of talent. If anyone can, he can.”
Loft laments certain trends in the arts that underscore Wilborn’s challenge.
“When you look at the (raiding of) trust funds, the orchestra in debt, it can get discouraging,” notes Loft. “And isn’t it a sad state of affairs that sports gets 200 pages a week in the newspaper to report on (Bucs’) wind sprints and the arts gets one or two?
“The arts are increasingly isolationist,” adds Loft. “You can buy a CD instead of attending a live performance. And that isolationist idea of the arts is here to stay. Selling a vibrant arts community is one tough nut to crack.”
Wilborn, says Loft, will have “his fingers in a lot of pots. He has to stay focused and not be distracted. I think he can manage it.
“I’m all for what the mayor is doing,” stresses Loft. “The arts aren’t frivolous. They are a reflection of the quality of life. The reason people live here is primarily the quality of life.”