‘Tampa Fresh Foods’- the felt supermarket


Luka Vaicekauskas

From January 20 to February 20, ‘Tampa Fresh Foods’ dominates Water Street in Tampa. An art exhibit governed by 50,000 felt products handmade by Lucy Sparrow, and English artist, is a sure hit in Tampa. Sponsored by the Viniks, this store is full of bright colors and Tampa’s staples- Cuban influences, citrusy fruits, and seafood.

Stumbling upon a new ‘Tampa Fresh Foods’ market on Water Street may appear to many as a simple grocery store in town. But by looking closely, it becomes clear that everything is made of felt.   

Over two years in the making and stocked with over 50,000 hand-created felt artworks, it is credited to Lucy Sparrow. Sparrow, 35, is an English artist living in the South of England, specializing in felt creations. Sparrow’s work has been shown in galleries from London to Los Angeles and at international art fairs, including Art Basel, Scope Miami and the New York Affordable Art Fair. However, when the Vinik Family Foundation discovered her work to honor Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday, she was invited to Tampa for a new project.  

The Viniks, who have brought The Beach Tampa and The Art of the Brick through their foundation to Tampa audiences for free, started collecting Sparrow’s pieces. Penny Vinik had the idea to approach Sparrow about bringing an installation to Tampa. And from there, an agreement was made.   

Tampa Fresh Foods, an art installation open to the public from January 20th to February 20th, has Sparrow as a constant presence during the installation run. She does not only stand as an accessory for taking pictures, but too behind the register, checking customers’ felt groceries out.  

As mentioned, it took two years to sew the thousands of products, and two weeks to stock the shelves of the exhibit.   

At a preview event, Sparrow said she was delighted by how the installation turned out.  

“You always hope it’s going to be as good as it looks in your brain, but when it actually comes and is finished you’ll finally go, yes, it worked out,” Sparrow said.  

One can feel Tampa’s staples all throughout the exhibit, including the Cuban Sandwich station, citrusy fruits, and seafood.  

In addition to the felt products being part of a smiling display, items are also made for purchase! Everything is handmade and colorful.  

“Tampa is such an inspirational location, with a backdrop of so many strong and varied local stories,” Sparrow said in an interview, “These elements will all come together in felt in my most colorful, creative and interactive installation to date.”  

While walking around, one can forget that everything is made of felt- Lucy’s ability to recreate the realistic logos and packaging on hundreds of different products is well-acknowledged.  

As only a limited amount of guests are invited inside at a time, the line to the art exhibit ranged from minutes to over an hour. Such further shows what a hit the display was. Further, by comparing and researching, her growth and engagement on social media increased ever since her visit to Tampa. The exhibit is one of a kind- something new.   

“When we’re looking at … bringing projects into Tampa, one of the things is it has to be accessible for everybody,” Penny Viniks said. “And so that broad appeal from kids to grandparents … Lucy’s art, it just speaks to everybody.”