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.
The Morean Arts Center connects visitors with multiple forms of modern art, welcoming them to explore galleries, a glass studio, and a clay center, all of which host classes, exhibits, events, and retail opportunities. The center was founded in 1917 and has served as the community's art center ever since. The Chihuly Collection showcases a permanent exhibition of world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly's installations. 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 Morean Center for Clay visitors can view amazing works of art in the gallery and watch artists work during classes and open-studio time. The center also operates as a retail venue, where customers can purchase local and regional art.
Since opening in 1987, Great Explorations Children's Museum has sparked a love for learning for visitors of all ages with a constantly rotating lineup of interactive exhibits that fill 18,000 square feet with touch, light, and sound. Whether they're learning about nearby sea life at Beth's Beach, honing their knowledge of textures on a crawl through the Touch Tunnel, exploring arachnids in the Critter Cave, or playing instruments in the Musical Magical Treehouse, kids benefit from each exhibit's emphasis on interactivity. 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.
In addition to visiting the museum's permanent exhibits, kids can also extend their learning journeys through the museum's lengthy list of camps and programs. The museum even takes its show on the road, with the Express Yourself Art Mobile bringing creative craft opportunities to neighborhoods around St. Petersburg.
Judie Dazzio believes that everyone can be an artist. And at Dazzio Art Experience—a comprehensive art school—she helps everyone from children to adults and novices to professionals harness their creativity. Though she's a painter herself—having won awards for her work with watercolors and acrylics—she caters to range of artistic interests, offering classes in acrylics and watercolors but also branching out into sculpture, illustration, and Photoshop. For the experienced artist, she and her instructors provide developmental classes to help them produce portfolio pieces and host group critique sessions.
Beyond teaching her students the techniques to create, she also displays their works in a gallery attached to her school. Here, rows upon rows of painted canvases, sculptures, and handcrafted jewelry showcase their newly acquired talents.
Set amid the largest collection of Dalí's work outside Spain, the Groupon-exclusive “Shades of Night: After Hours” bash combines world lounge music with docent-guided tours of the Dalí Museum. Visitors can feast their eyes on essential works and lesser-known pieces in journeys that parallel Dalí's career. Each night, a different DJ spins international jams for dancing and movement-based interpretations of melting clocks. Though not included with the Groupon, Café Gala throws open its doors to reveal a bounty of Spanish-themed tapas, desserts, and glasses of Shades of Night sangria ($3). Silent films presented in the museum theater tickle the eyes as tarot readings extract secrets from the future with fate-drenched cards and cryptic notes disguised as utility bills.