University of South Florida

College of The Arts

University of South Florida

Art Alumna Mia Hollenback Shares Art and Community with Tiny Rain Bows Art Collective

Monday, June 22, 2020
portrait of Mia Hollenback with colored studio gel lights

USF art alumna Mia Hollenback, along with fellow USF graduate Jackson Cardarelli, a founder of Tiny Rain Bows, a community-centered project centered on making art more accessible to everyone in Tampa Bay. 

Since its inception, Tiny Rain Bows has hosted workshops, art sales, performances, and other events in the Tampa Bay Area.

“We want it to be a space for joy,” said Hollenback. “A place where people can feel safe or connected with each other. ... It's important to foster that community.”

She recognizes that there are barriers that prevent people from engaging with art, whether it is something tangible like the cost of admission at a local museum, or simply not identifying as creative person. 

“I don't think my family would be willing to spend—it would have been 80 dollars—at a local museum for all of us to go,” said Hollenback. “I'd rather go to the beach for free, or something like that.”

She says that free days at local museums help to bring in new faces, as do free events and workshops, however, there is always the concern of funding such initiatives.

As a student at USF, Hollenback helped introduce students from all around campus to the arts through her involvement in Centre Gallery, a campus exhibition space in the Marshall Student Center. There, she helped to lead art making workshops and open mics with students from a variety of disciplines, some of which were new to the creative and art-making process.

“We taught so many people who were not part of the art department on campus,” said Hollenback. “Through the workshops, through the open mics, I found that really inspiring.”

After founding Tiny Rain Bows in 2019, the duo began hosting events such as embroidery workshops at locations such as St. Pete's Black Crow Coffee and North Tampa's Felicitous Coffee. The workshops operate with the support of a small suggested donation at events, however, all are welcome to participate.

Central to Tiny Rain Bows is the DIY spirit, a tradition and culture of creating opportunities for artists through self-hosted events and spaces. For Hollenback, it is a powerful way of engaging the community and creating opportunities for artists.

“It's about taking initiative,” said Hollenback. “Not necessarily waiting on a gallery to publish your work.”

By teaching crafts such as embroidery, costs are low, and the process of creating yields a uniquely comfortable setting for others to socialize and interact with each other. By focusing on the their projects, social pressures and anxieties fade away as the group engages in the communal activity.

“You don't have to make eye contact with people, so people are more willing to speak or talk, or don't feel obligated to speak or talk if they don't want to,” said Hollenback. “Most people are just in their project … It just creates a more comfortable environment for everyone inherently.”

Tiny Rain Bows founders Mia Hollenback and Jackson Cardarelli in front of the mural in progress at Lark on 42nd apartents in April, 2020.

Tiny Rain Bows founders Mia Hollenback and Jackson Cardarelli in front of their mural in progress at Lark on 42nd apartents in April, 2020.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has put Tiny Rain Bows events on hold, Hollenback and Cardarelli are still finding ways to operate in the spirit of DIY culture. In April, they painted their first mural at the Lark on 42nd apartment building just north of USF, and they look forward to painting more murals in the future.

In collaboration with local booking and arts collective Swamp Sister, co-founded by fellow USF art alumna Kai Holyoke, they started the monthly video performance series called Locals Only featuring studio performances by local musicians. The performances can be seen on Instagram and Facebook.

In June, Swamp Sister and Tiny Rain Bows paired up to create a pocket handbook zine filled with information for protesters supporting the Black Lives Matter movement in Tampa. They printed 1,000 copies and a digital version is available online.

Hollenback continues her artistic practice, with a focus on illustration, embroidery, and zines, which are self-made, shareable, printed miniature publications deeply intertwined with DIY culture. Through studies with mentor and printmaking professor Bradlee Shanks as a studio art major, Hollenback shaped her art work to be more intentional and focused.

She currently works at the Tampa Museum of Art, where she engages with museum patrons, assists the museum's social media presence, and handles ticketing and membership.

Hollenback looks forward to continuing to make the arts more accessible and empowering other artists to take initiative in the spirit of DIY.

“It's just so powerful to just take that initiative and not be bogged down because XYZ gallery didn't accept your proposal” said Hollenback. “It doesn't mean you're not good enough. ... Might as well put yourself out there. Why not?”

You can visit the Tiny Rain Bows website to keep up with their community-building endeavors.


Wednesday, June 10, 2020
Tampa Bay Times: How Tampa Bay Businesses, Artists and Activists are Helping Protesters

Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Creative Loafing: Tiny Rain Bows Brings Big Love to Niche Tampa Bay Art Communities

Mia Hollenback's website