We recently had the opportunity to interview Fairgrounds St. Pete FLORIDARAMA Artist Thaddeus Erdahl aka TJ. His diorama really needs no description, as the name of his FLORIDARAMA, Welcome to Florida, has that covered!
Thaddeus Erdahl was born and raised in La Porte City, IA. He has exhibited his sculpture and presented workshops throughout the US. After a three-year enlistment in the Army, Thaddeus began his career in art and education at the University of Northern Iowa where he received his BA in Art Education and a BFA in Ceramics. Thaddeus received his MFA in Ceramics from the University of Florida, where he was a UF Alumni Fellowship recipient during his three years of graduate study. In the summer of 2008, he attended Think Tank III, a national art in higher education symposium, as a Graduate Fellowship Recipient. In 2009 he was selected as an artist-in-residence at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN. Most recently, Thaddeus was a short-listed artist for the inaugural American Craft Council Emerging Voice in Craft Award. Thaddeus moved to the Southeast in 2017 and is currently living in St. Pete pursuing his studio art career while working as a visual arts instructor at Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa.
Read on to learn more about what the experience of being part of our inaugural exhibit is like for him.
What do you want the public to take away from experiencing the FLORIDARAMA diorama you have created for Fairgrounds St. Pete?
Thaddeus Erdahl: I would like everyone to look at my FLORIDARAMA and think to themselves, wow, what a crazy day at the beach!
What about being a part of Fairgrounds St. Pete’s inaugural exhibition is most exciting to you?
TJ: For me the aspect of making something new and the challenge of working with a new concept and material that I don’t typically work with was initially the exciting part of being part of the inaugural FLORIDARAMA exhibition. I was also really drawn to the idea of what FLORIDARAMA was about, creating tiny worlds that would draw a viewer into an experience.
What inspired your Fairgrounds St. Pete FLORIDARAMA?
TJ: For me it was the idea of being a tourist and going to the beach and all the craziness that can happen at the beach. You just never know what you are going to see!
What is the most significant influence in your art practice?
TJ: I am not the best at telling jokes but I find jokes and especially humor to be a very important part of a healthy lifestyle. I think humor is one of the biggest influences on my work. I know that my work is sometimes more of a tragic comedy and that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I really love the challenge of finding a way to orchestrate a misfortune into something that is humorous.
Besides Fairgrounds St. Pete, do you have an upcoming project you’d like to share?
TJ: Nothing major……just tinkering in the studio.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
TJ: Shrug off your worries and stress, quit taking yourself so serious, relax and grab a cold beer.
What is your favorite FL destination or landmark?
TJ: One of my favorite views in FL is the top of the Pinellas Bayway Bridge just before sunset. I love seeing the Don Cesar Hotel silhouetted by the sunset and the Gulf. A landmark that I haven’t seen yet but is on my to do list is the Mermaid Show at Weeki Wachee.