We recently spent a few days in St. Petersburg Florida. We last visited the city in 2011 and were pleasantly surprised by the concentration of arts venues in the downtown. We found the same this time, especially the:
- Dali Museum, with its large, highly representative collection which includes dozens of pictures representing his many styles, from his teens (even before his formal artistic training) through his post-Surrealist stage. It includes about a half dozen of the artists “Monumental (roughly 12×24-foot works, each of which took about a year to create. The museum’s Special Exhibit space, meanwhile, had a temporary exhibition of creations by clothing and accessory designer Elsa Schaparelli, in conjunction with Dali. And this is not to even mention the museum’s lovely avant-garde building, the sculpture garden and min-maze;
- Morea Arts Center, an art school and showcase for creations from a wide range of local artists; and the
- Large number of interesting art galleries throughout downtown and along the harbor: galleries that were drawn by the anchor institutions of the Dali Museum and the Morea Center.
We also explored and discovered interesting art in the downtown area. These included the:
- Chihuly Collection, a museum-like display of a couple dozen of the renowned glass artist’s large installations that represent each of the many styles that he created over the years;
- Hot Glass Workshop, across the street from the Collection, which includes a studio and display and sales areas for a number of glass artists who create and provide regular demonstrations of their pieces in the site;
- Two separate street art/craft fairs, not even including the small VW fair, where owners of vintage VW (primarily, but exclusively 60’s-era buses) display their wares;
- Museum of Fine Arts, a small, but interesting museum with its individual rooms devoted to different styles/eras of art (India, China, African, photo, American traditional, American contemporary, etc.) and special exhibition (which we did not have time to explore) of costumes and artifacts from the filming of the multiple movies that make up the ever-expanding Star Wars saga; and
- Many more galleries, boutiques and quirky shops than we found on our previous visit—in an area that is rapidly gentrifying and, as we learned, has displaced a number of artist studios to the Warehouse District, a newly emerging, low-cost area a couple miles south of downtown.
The Warehouse District is still occupied by many working warehouses and small-scale manufacturing facilities. A growing number of warehouses, however, are now being repurposed as artist studios, showrooms, galleries, art schools, design centers and other types of arts-oriented venues. About four dozen such establishments (some housing studios of multiple artists) are scattered across a couple square miles. These are interspersed with a number of craft breweries and casual restaurants.
The most ambitions of these developments is Soft Water Studios, a 4,000 sq ft studio that is the first completed section of a multi-acre, multi-building complex that was acquired and being developed by the St. Petersburg Arts Association as shared studio space. The most upscale is probably the 7,000 sq ft Duncan McClellan Gallery, which features rotating visits of nationally- and internationally-recognized glass artists. Micro-breweries, two of which we visited, include Three Sisters and Urban Brew, the latter of which we also had lunch.
We also explored parts of the downtown area with their boutiques, galleries and shopping and entertainment venues (such as Sundial and Beechwood, both of which had outdoor music. Central Avenue, meanwhile, includes a few blocks that are loaded with some of the city’s popular casual restaurants and bars (many with live music).
We, of course, also had to eat. We explored one particularly interesting food venue, Locale Market, essentially a smaller, multi-ethnic version of Mario Batali’s Eatily, which includes a nice selection of upscale specialty foods, food stalls and restaurants. We ate a few small, casual meals:
- Lunch at the Mercado’s Red Mesa, a Mexican, fast-casual spot where we had shrimp tacos and burritos, along with beers from a couple of the city’s rapidly growing number of craft breweries;
- Dinner at Annata Wine Bar, where three of us shared a number of reasonably good small plates and a couple of nice half-priced bottles that were recommended by the very helpful sommelier.
- Urban Brew Pub, where we shared a plate of ribs and a side orders of potato salad and mac and cheese—along with the home-brewed Tropical Torpedo IPA.
We stayed at the recently renovated, Art Deco-style Avalon Hotel, sister hotel to the next-door Hollander, a much larger, renovated structure whose lobby and lounge are tastefully decorated with late 19th and early 20th century memorabilia. While comfortable and nicely run, the room, especially the bathroom, was very small. Next time we will seek out an alternative.