Artworthy: Ryan Dettra

Ryan Dettra is the General Manager of the Cultural Events Division of St. Johns County. His father and partner in Cafe 11, Rich Dettra, says Ryan has always been a natural when it comes to organizing people and events.

“From putting together hockey games as a youth to arranging a 9/11 fundraiser that brought in more than $70,000 — he’s always found ways to tease potential into reality”, Ryan’s father said.

Artist or Advocate?
A little bit of an artist but, mostly an advocate. I don’t create two dimensional pieces of art. I design experiences and create opportunities. Working as an advocate of the arts is more complex than people understand. The general population and politicians don’t understand how to measure opportunities, nor do they understand the many indirect benefits, multiplier effects, and risks associated with growing the arts.

The only thing that is understood is profit or loss. As long as we produce a profit we are able to reinvest our time, energy and resources into growing the arts in other parts of the county.

Artistic Tool of Choice?
Concept…. It’s intangible but a powerful tool. Every news outlet needs a story. Every advertiser wants people to look at their ads. Everyone wants good topics for conversation. We create and book events that make for a great story.

First Artistic Memory?
Looking back, I’d have to say cake. I don’t think my Mom considers herself an artist. The birthday cakes she made for me, my brother and my sister had detailed Sesame Street and action figure characters carved out of cake and colored icing.

Defining moment as an artist?
Almost 2 years ago, I was told to make The St. Augustine Amphitheatre “average, under the radar.” That some people would actually encourage and accept mediocrity shook me up. I realized that the biggest opportunity to advance the arts in St. Johns County would be the Amphitheatre and its performance had to exceed everyone’s expectations to gain political support.

Inspiration or perspiration?
Both.. I am constantly being inspired by other city/counties, other events, artists, and musicians. I feel like I have to work 10xs harder just to keep up with the workload. I’d like to continue to bring these things to St. Johns County. Unfortunately, it is easy to get burnt-out working 7 days a week, nights and holidays.

Favorite art related possession at the moment?
I don’t buy too many things. I believe we support what we believe in through our purchase decisions. So, when I make art related purchases, I try to buy from local businesses.

Why St. Johns County?
There is an enormous amount of potential here, but for whatever reason, many individuals are resistant to change and new ideas. Government being what it is, I’ve found it next to impossible to change the status quo — but I’m just getting started. In the meantime, I’m hanging in there and I’m doing everything I can to advance the arts with the opportunities I have now. I’m learning it will take me my entire career to make a noticeable ongoing difference.

For additional details on the cultural events reported to Historic City News by St. Johns Cultural Council, visit their website at