When it comes to cultural activities, St Petersburg/Clearwater in Florida is in a class of its own. You might think of it as a destination for water sports and big beautiful beaches – and it is, but downtown and around has some important art institutions you really should not miss.
From your resort in Orlando, you can reach St Petersburg in under 2 hours’ drive time, allowing you to get a real feel for the place and to dive into the ocean, and dip into something cultural, all in the same day.
And as dusk falls, nip over to Tampa Bay where The Tampa Museum of Art puts on a show before you even set foot inside this award-winning edifice, designed in the image of ‘an electronic jewel box sitting on a glass pedestal’. Computer controlled coloured lights dance across the façade of this paean to modern and contemporary art.
While Tampa devotes wall space to all things modern, it also pays its respects to antiquity of Roman and Greek provenance. Current temporary exhibitions include a fascinating look at the work of ‘wrap’ artist Christo, who has literally wrapped iconic, world-class monuments and buildings, with a focus on his artistic collaborations with his late wife Jeanne-Claude (ends January 3 2016).
If you have a taste for the bizarre, then the surrealist maestro Dali will be right up your alley! St. Petersburg has one of the largest collections of the Spanish artist’s works outside his home country.
The Dali Museum is also a ‘must see’ building if outstanding architectural design floats your boat. Upcoming is the temporary exhibition DISNEY AND DALI: Architects of the Imagination (January to June 2016) and some might be surprised to learn these two visionary minds collaborated on an unfinished short animation titled Destino.
Fine arts lovers should take time to appreciate the classical and contemporary works housed in the city’s Museum of Fine Arts.
The elegant Palladian style museum, which achieved its 50th anniversary in 2015, has a modern extension built to allow for special exhibitions, a shop and a café.
A glass act
Fabulous creations in coloured glass are mesmerising to behold and all ages will be blown away by the Chihuly Collection, presented by the Morean Arts Center; St Pete’s also has the Duncan McClellan Gallery with beautiful artistic work on display. In the presence of such inspirational and fantastical pieces, with opportunities to watch live glass blowing demonstrations and even to have a go, you’ll never be just a glassy-eyed spectator.
These are just some of the city’s big art museums, the arts scene in vibrant St. Petersburg/Clearwater is buzzing with many more cultural venues and a busy calendar of events including music and theatrical productions.
Other places that might take your fancy include: Great Explorations Children’s Museum. where little budding artists flower in its imaginatively themed activity areas, Florida CraftArt – with a CraftArt Festival taking place on November 21 and 22, Sunken Gardens with its botanical wonders.
And there’s more to look forward to as in 2017, the $70 million Museum of American Arts and Crafts Movement is anticipated to open downtown, as well as a museum housing a serious collection of Western and American Indian art. The city also has five vibrant art districts, where artists live and work with open studios and workshops.
Photo credit: CityofStPete