On May 18, the LGBT community and its supporters gathered en masse at the Tampa Museum of Art to celebrate diversity, pride and creativity at Pride and Passion 2013. This marked the eighth year for the event, and organizers are expecting a capacity crowd.
The museum can hold about 850 people, and Pride and Passion event chair Marc Retzlaff was confident the museum hit capacity the night of the party. But at press time, he did not yet have solid numbers as far as ticket sales were concerned.
This year’s theme of a “modern re-interpretation of Baroque aesthetic” brought out surprises throughout the night, including a roaming violinist who played along with an accompanying DJ and a carriage full of white-face women pulled by strapping men in harnesses-all within the lobby area of the expansive museum. After the tour of the museum, the women stepped out of the carriage and distributed liqueur to those in attendance.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” said Megan Pauley of Ontario, Canada, who attended the Eighth Annual Pride & Passion while visiting a friend who lives in St. Petersburg. “It’s amazing how incredibly well organized and over-the-top everything is. I’m going to make it a point to come down next year.”
Pride and Passion has gained traction over its lifetime and what was originally merely a membership drive for the museum has taken on a life of its own, Retzlaff said.
“Initially this was an outreach from the museum into the LGBT community to attract that demographic,” Retzlaff said. “Now it’s an incredible party that continues to surprise and impress everyone who attends.”
This year, Pride and Passion organizers showcased a “Reveal” theme, meaning that surprises were unveiled throughout the evening.
“There is lots of drama, grandeur and costuming,” Retzleff said while describing the event around him. “And a lot of wigs!”
A group from Penguin Entertainment out of Orlando made the night one to remember, Retzleff added, and local Tampa Bay designers like Helen Guero and Ivanka Ska showcased their creations throughout the night.
The party itself may be organized by the LGBT community, but it’s the community as a whole that has embraced it and made it one of the Museum’s signature events of the year.
“It was designed to help broaden the base and get more people in the community supporting the Tampa Museum of Art,” Retzleff said. “The success has been amazing because of the way the community has taken ownership of it. This is the party of the season and an incredible event for everyone. We wanted it to be an all-inclusive event. I think that’s where a lot of us have gone when striving for equality.
“Equality doesn’t mean separate. This is a party the LGBT community is throwing for the community at large.”
Several members of the Museum’s Board of Trustees attended Pride & Passion, as did Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner and Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor.
Retzlaff said that he was most impressed with the way attendees dressed to impress for the annual celebration.
“At one point I looked around the room and saw that everyone was dressed to the nines,” he said. “It’s amazing to see how well our marketing campaign was embraced and so well received regarding our color scheme.”
Organizing of Pride and Passion fell to a team of 13 people, and each member of the committee has different areas of expertise, Retzleff explained.
“This is by far the most ambitious event we’ve put on, at least it is in the five years I’ve been involved,” Retzleff said. “And we couldn’t do it without the support of the museum staff.”
And so far, he added, the feedback has been nothing but positive.
Photography by Nick Cardello.