and Dale Chihuly
By Ginger Warder
The “best kept” secret on the Gulf of Mexico coast is out. St. Petersburg, often portrayed as a sleepy, laid-back city, is actually a world-class cultural destination.
Major museums are expanding. One gallery – now transforming into a museum – will boast a new permanent glassware collection by Dale Chihuly (see his elegant and creative work at right.*)
Simply put, art lovers, whatever their taste – from Knights' Armor to Dali – can find it all in St. Petersburg.
Knights of Medieval Times
If you're into dungeons and dragons or the era of knights and their ladies, you might head to the Florida International Museum (727-341-7900 or www.floridamuseum.org), 244 2nd Ave. North, this fall. While the museum is closed for the summer, from Sept. 14 through Dec. 31, it will feature "The Age of Armor," a collection from the Higgins Armory Museum, the only solely dedicated U.S. armor museum.
The collection focuses on the legendary knights of the Medieval and Renaissance world, their tournaments, battles and victories. Among the five-dozen pieces on exhibition is a complete suit of plate armor.
Certainly the image of the armored knight remains perennially and deeply imbedded in our cultural iconography. The exhibition begins with an overview of the history of personal armor, hearkening as far back as the Trojan War.
Much focus, however, is on plate armor's classical age, from the late Middle Ages through the Renaissance. The exhibition also examines the shaping and decorating of armor, its diverse uses, and criteria that are used by connoisseurs to understand and assess the artifacts.
Museum goers may view a simple, yet elegant, infantryman's breastplate from a master Milan craftsman as well as elaborate elements of horse armor from southern Germany.
Taking center stage are seven suits of armor, ranging from the early sixteenth century to the mid-seventeenth. For more information on this specific exhibit, call 727-341-7900.
Museum tickets are $17 for adults, $15 for the military, $5 for students, with children seven and under admitted free. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Spain: Surreal & Baroque
The Salvador Dali Museum (727-823-3767 or www.salvadordalimuseum.org), 1000 3rd St. South, is in the planning stages for a move into new quarters adjacent to the newly renovated Mahaffey Performing Arts Center, located on the St. Petersburg waterfront. The museum boasts one of the largest Dali collections outside Spain.
One of Dali's paintings on display in St. Petersburg.*
Through June 25, the museum is home to a premiere exhibit, Dali & the Spanish Baroque. This exhibition pairs – in a side-by-side fashion –17th-century Spanish masterpieces on loan from American and European museums with Dali’s own works. The pairings visually demonstrate Dali’s use of Spanish Baroque.
The historic Vinoy Renaissance Resort (727-894-1000 or www.vinoyrenaissanceresort.com), 501 Fifth Ave., NE, St. Petersburg, is offering a one-night “Dali Getaway” package that includes two 30-minute massages and a deluxe bayview room. Offered through June 30, it starts at $389 per couple.
Museum tickets are $15 for adults, $13.50 for seniors/military and police, $10 for students, and $4 for children ages 5 to 9. But here’s a tip: Visit the museum’s Web site for a $2 discount coupon.
Hours are Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (with $5 adult admission 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.); Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5:20 p.m.
Twice as Much Fine Art
The Museum of Fine Arts (727-896-2667 or www.fine-arts.org), 255 Beach Dr., St. Petersburg has begun a $21 million project to double its size. A new two-story building will be constructed adjacent to the existing Beach Drive building. Opening in 2008, this addition will house special exhibition galleries, a classroom, interactive education gallery, library, museum shop and café.
Visitors might stroll through the Museum of Fine Arts to view antiques, tapestries and art.*
This museum is known for its 18th- and 19th-century European and American art collection. Through March 18, a Natura Morta: Still-Life Painting and the Medici Collections exhibition presents 43 still-life paintings by famous Mediterranean artists including Bartolomeo Bimbi.
The museum’s permanent collection of European art includes works by Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, Rodin, and Gaugin. It also features paintings by such American greats as Whistler, Wyeth, and O’Keefe.
Museum admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $4 for students, and kids under 7 are admitted free. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The Arts Center (727-822-7872 or www.theartscenter.org), 719 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, is currently being audited by the American Association for Museums to make the leap from gallery to museum. It will break ground this November on a new $35 million, 133,000-square-foot new facility scheduled for completion in spring 2009
The new building’s star exhibition is a permanent collection of glass art from internationally acclaimed glass artist Dale Chihuly. He’s credited with turning glass-blowing from a craft to an art form. Museum visitors also will watch glass-making from a new glass-walled hot shop.
One fun exhibition running through May 27 combines "The Wild Bunch: Contemporary Cowboys" with "Cracker Country: Florida's Cowboy Culture."
Admission to the Arts Center is free. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Note to Readers: Hours and admission may vary for special exhibitions and programs. Consult the museum’s Web site before you go for the latest details.
Take Home an Art Treasure
The non-profit Florida Craftsmen Gallery (727-821-7391 or www.floridacraftsmen.net), 501 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, FL 33701 is a treasure trove of hand-made crafts. Established in 1952 to showcase Florida artists, the gallery offers glass, metal, and wood sculptures; quilts; pottery; ceramics; jewelry; and other decorative arts.
More than 26 independent artists actively display and sell their works throughout St. Petersburg. You’ll find many of the best represented here. Admission is free. The gallery is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Professional travel writer Ginger Warder, a Tampa Bay resident, learned the ins and outs of travel as a tour manager and publicist for Grammy-winning artists like Janis Ian. A member of the Society of American Travel Writers, she specializes in travel with pets, arts and entertainment, and European destinations.
*Photos are owned, copyrighted and used with permission of the galleries and cultural venues mentioned above. All rights reserved. Please do not link to or copy these photos. Thank you.