Inside a building in St. Petersburg, works of art from around the world gather like good friends. Georgia O'Keeffe's Poppy hangs not far from Paul Cézanne's A Corner of the Woods, Pointoise. Claude Monet's Houses of Parliament gives a glimpse of faraway lands, while Thomas Moran's Florida Landscape stays closer to home.
With a range of permanent and rotating exhibitions, the Museum of Fine Arts seeks to engage visitors with art while preserving the pieces in its care. Much of the collection resides in an original 1960s building, but an adjacent modern gallery draws in visitors with special exhibitions, an art library, and interactive educational facilities—ensuring they have plenty of ways to experience art or at least overcome a fear of informational plaques.
Who They Are
Even before the Museum of Fine Arts opened to the public in 1965, founder Margaret Acheson Stuart saw its galleries as a space where diverse audiences could explore art "from antiquity to the present." Architect John Volk had designed the original museum wing to instill visitors with a feeling of solidness and permanence. Decades later, the museum sought to expand, and conducted a nationwide search for a worthy architect. They were rewarded with designer Yann Weymouth, who completed a second building in 2008—a two-story, modern glass conservatory.
Built in 1918, the Craftsman House's expansive, adobe-toned bungalow collapses time as visitors step onto a breezy veranda, walk past a lush carpet of flowers and fronds, and witness more American craftwork than they can shake an intricately whittled stick at. Blown glass, turned wood, and fine pottery and jewelry provided by a 300-strong network of local and national artists are just a few of the pieces that settle in at this homey abode. The building is so homey, in fact, that one artist hardly ever leaves. Surrounded by the courtyard, what was once an old-time carriage house is now the clay-caked studio of professional potter Stephanie Schorr. There, visitors can find her partway through many projects at once, crafting functional wares and feeding the carnival fire breathers that keep her kiln hot.
The historic hub of creative know-how hosts a multiplicity of events, including live music, gallery tours, and artistic workshops. In honor of the gallery's tireless community efforts, Craftsman House was named the 2011 Top Retailer for a Charitable or Philanthropic Event by Niche magazine.
A pirate ship hangs suspended in midair. Tennis balls rocket toward the ceiling. Plastic robots jolt to life. Recipient of a 2008 MetLife Foundation award for promising practices, Great Explorations Children's Museum incites creativity and inventiveness from visitors of all ages with a constantly rotating lineup of interactive exhibits that fill 18,000 square feet with touch, light, and sound. Pulley towers allow children to hoist themselves into the air, and a mock fire station thrills wee visitors with a fire engine, child-sized firefighters' gear, and microscopic dalmatians. Museum guides lead lesson programs in a multidisciplinary style, though visitors can also find the friendly professionals and their orange polo shirts bouncing between exhibits while performing science experiments, dancing, and playing music.
Themed events let visitors discover the museum's potential through focuses such as "Superhero Saturday," "Slightly Spooky Boo!seum," and "Winter Wonderland," and seasonal camps explore annual topics such as the life cycle of a bunsen burner.
Much like professional skydivers, wily coyotes, and other careers that involve a degree of danger, most professional glassblowers aren’t self-taught. Joshua Poll, however, learned to harness the glass furnace all by himself, today imparting more than a decade of self-taught experience to Zen Glass Studios, where he and fellow glass smith David Walker create custom works of art by hand. Together they shape glass into authentic and unique pieces, including custom glassware and jewelry to wear while meeting a spouse’s goldfish for the first time.
Within their studio, Joshua and David teach workshops and classes, during which students survey basic to advanced glass-blowing techniques, crafting their own handmade objects such as ornaments, beer glasses, and vases. The duo also runs a full glassblower training program, which follows a syllabus structured to arm all students with all the necessary skills to set out on their own in the industry, just as Joshua did all those years ago.
The Morean Arts Center connects visitors with myriad forms of modern art, welcoming them to explore galleries, a glass studio, and a clay workshop, all of which host classes and events. The Chihuly Collection showcases a permanent exhibition of world-renowned glass-blowing artist Dale Chihuly's work. His magnificent bright forms, many of which are inspired by nature, spiral toward the ceiling, housed in a 10,000-square-foot structure designed by award-winning architect Alberto Alfonso. A visit to the Glass Studio and Hot Shop immerses guests in the creation of glass works, as artists manipulate molten glass into vibrant orbs and vases. At the Center for Clay visitors can get their hands dirty in forming delicate earthenware during classes and open-studio time.
Since 1922, St. Petersburg Museum of History has preserved the heritage of St. Petersburg and the Pinellas Peninsula with expansive collections and four galleries that host annually rotating exhibits. Its permanent exhibits, meanwhile, trace the area’s history from Native Americans to the present day through artifacts such as a cannonball fired by Union sailors and replica of a parlor car from the Orange Belt Railway. Elsewhere, the World's First Commercial Airline Gallery charts commercial aviation history with a full-size working replica of the Benoist Airboat and the first-ever pterodactyl to earn a commercial-flying license. Visitors looking to delve deeper into the past can explore more than 32,000 artifacts in the museum archives or partake in one of its educational programs such as tours, community classes, and camps.