By Julie Garisto, Alive Tampa Bay Correspondent. Photo by Alex McKnight.
Havana native Susana Weymouth crossed the Florida Straits and lived on the other side of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans before taking the helm of the Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture and the Arts.
With TBBCA, she has bridged both sides of the bay by building bridges between commerce and artists of all types — no easy feat given the staggering number of creatives and businesses in Tampa Bay.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Weymouth learned her work ethic and tenacity from her parents, both lawyers and political exiles. She was only 2 years old when her family left Cuba for Washington, D.C., where Weymouth grew up and attended Georgetown University. She studied international relations and Chinese, and lived and worked in Beijing and New York. She later moved to Paris, where she married French-American architect Yann Weymouth.
Yann was Chief of Design for I.M. Pei for the Grand Louvre project when their son, Wells, was born in Paris. Locally, Yann is known for designing The Dalí Museum and the Hazel Hough Wing and Conservatory of the Museum of Fine Arts. Susana, Yann and Wells later moved to London, where Susana worked as development consultant for the National Film and Television School. Yann continued to work on projects all over the world and is currently the Design Director of the St. Pete Design Group, a joint venture with Harvard Jolly and Wannamacher Jensen. Wells, now 26, is a Captain in the U.S. Army and an M.D. He and his wife just moved to San Antonio for his medical residency.
“We have a beloved rescue mutt, Olivia,” Weymouth adds, “purchased at charity auction in Miami, who has been with us now for almost 17 years!”
The arts advocate is currently planning TBBCA’s Impact Awards, which benefit the Charlie Hounchell Art Stars Scholarships Program. The event will be held Thursday, Oct. 20, starting at the Dalí Museum for cocktails and The Mahaffey for dinner and program. Honorees include Mark Mahaffey, Dr. Kent Lydecker, Smith & Associates/Bob Glaser, and the world-renowned artist Janet Echelman.
“Janet is a Tampa native and we are proud to be welcoming her back to her hometown as a superstar artist and innovator. It gives me great pleasure to be preparing to recognize and celebrate these very worthy and inspiring honorees, and to help raise funds for our scholarships and other valuable programs,” Weymouth said.
The civic leader agreed to share a little bit more about her life and work with me by answering the following questions.
Julie Garisto: Where in St. Petersburg do you live?
Susana Weymouth: We moved a few years ago from South Tampa to Pass-a-Grille, south of the Don CeSar. We liked it so much that we decided to make our permanent residence in the area. It is a charming, small, historic district, abounding in natural beauty and long stretch of white sandy beach. Our friends there are a wonderful mix of brilliant minds and talent – musical, artistic – lawyers, doctors, health care executives, professors, and even a nuclear scientist from CERN who spends a part of the year there. That makes for very stimulating dinner parties and conversations!
JG: Your work routine must be very busy and sometimes hectic with several events and meetings throughout the week. What keeps you motivated to keep up with it all?
SW: I am very passionate about the mission of TBBCA, to “unite businesses in support of arts and culture for a prosperous community.” That is what I do every day – through one of our eight different programs such as Call to Artists, Art in Lobbies and TBBCA Cultural Encounters. We hold one, two sometimes more Cultural Encounters each month. They help raise awareness, expand audiences and forge connections between businesses and arts and cultural organizations and artists. This month we have four Cultural Encounters scheduled. Last week, artist Ya La’Ford participated in conjunction with her first solo exhibit in Tampa at TECO Public Art Gallery; this week an author talk with the international and New York Times best-selling novelist Lisa Unger for the launch of her new book, Ink and Bone, with special guest interlocutor, former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio at our Cultural pARTner The Dalí; next week an artist talk and exhibit with New York-based video and performance artist Shana Moulton and MFA Curator Katherine Pill, in conjunction with Moulton’s first solo museum exhibit in the U.S. at The MFA; and later this month a Director’s Dialogue with freeFall Theatre for Light in the Piazza. I am the only employee of TBBCA, but I represent and serve the generous businesses who are our supporters, our pARTners. My schedule is non-stop busy but each and all of TBBCA activities and programs are important. I truly believe they help TBBCA support and advocate on behalf of arts and culture and make a positive impact in our community.
JG: Do you have a quiet spot to read, a local park to stroll in or other retreat to slip away to when you need to decompress?
SW: My husband and I usually work through the weekends, a bad habit, but unfortunately often we feel necessary to accomplish all that we set as ambitious goals. Fortunately, our home is in a peaceful setting. It is a treat when we can manage to snatch a walk on Pass-a-Grille beach early Sunday morning.
JG: You’ve lived in London, New York and Paris — wow! Why Tampa Bay? What makes you enjoy living here over bigger metro areas?
SW: Tampa Bay has grown considerably since we arrived here in 2001. It boasts outstanding universities, arts and cultural centers and museums, a burgeoning culinary scene, one of the best airports in the world, passionate business leaders, artists and sports aficionados — intellectually stimulating people of different backgrounds and professions, many of whom we count as friends. Yann and I hope to continue to contribute to and enjoy our Tampa Bay area community and its growth.
JG: What are a few of your favorite diversions, distractions and indulgences? For instance, do you have a TV show you stream, a cocktail or dessert or a favorite restaurant or bar?
SW: Distractions include watching House of Cards, Game of Thrones, PBS, the BBC. Some of our favorite restaurants are Mise En Place (Maryann Ferenc is a dear friend and neighbor on PAG), Cassis (we feel as if we are back at La Coupole in Paris), and some of the newer restaurants like Locale Market, Sea Salt, Stillwaters Tavern. We often take visitors from out of town to see The Dalí and The MFA, and both have nice cafes for lunch. We are so fortunate to have a plethora of great restaurants to choose from on both sides of the Bay. Mostly, we like to host dinner parties at our home — I cook, Yann offers nice French wines — and invite and connect new people to each other, surrounded by art in the intimate, private setting of our home.