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Classic pieces of art at award-winning museums and works by Chihuly, Monet and Dali aren’t something many visitors to St. Petersburg, FL expect. A popular vacation spot, St. Petersburg is known for sunshine and beaches but it’s also an artist hotspot praised for its museums. Be sure you don’t miss out on these museums in St Petersburg.
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Home to the biggest collection of Salvador Dalí works outside Spain, the Salvador Dalí Museum (known as The Dalí) sits on the waterfront of downtown. There are over 2,400 works by the surrealist artist, including photographs, drawings, sculptures and paintings. It is also home to the most masterpieces by Dalí, including The Hallucinogenic Toreador. The Dalí began as a collection of Dalí works started by an Ohio couple. As it grew, the art required a new home and St. Petersburg won the search. The first museum in St. Petersburg opened in 1982. It’s current building, which opened in 2011, moderates the humidity and is hurricane resistant. In addition to the permanent exhibit, there are outdoor gardens to explore, rotating exhibits, a museum store and a café.
Founded to “inspire, uplift and educate,” Imagine Museum displays glass works from around the world. Showcasing the history of contemporary glass making, the museum has a permanent collection and rotating exhibits on two floors. Imagine Museum is downtown.
Named for the ‘Father of Black History,’ the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum’s mission is to preserve Black history and foster equal rights and social justice. Located just southeast of downtown, the museum is in Jordan Park, the thriving African American part of town. The area suffered when the interstate cut through, destroying business and housing, but in recent years has been renovated. In addition to the art on display, the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum also has guest speakers and hosts events, including The Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival. When you visit, be sure to look at the road in front of the museum to see the educational street mural created by 16 local artists.
The Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg (MFA) opened in 1965 as the first art museum in the city. With tall columns at the building entrance, MFA stands out from surrounding structures. With more than 20,000 pieces belonging to the museum, there are works by Georgia O’Keefe, Monet, Rodin and Andrew Wyeth. The galleries contain worldwide art, including pre-Colombian, Asian, ancient Greek, Native American and African pieces. MFA also is home to one of the largest photography collections in the Southeastern United States. Located downtown on the waterfront, MFA has several outdoor areas to sit and relax, including a sculpture garden.
In the Crescent Lake neighborhood, Great Explorations Children’s Museum is a hands-on museum to help kids learn about various topics. Intended for children ages ten and under, Great Explorations offers exhibits on construction, healthy living, fire safety, and a vet’s office, along with small displays. Listed as Autism Friendly in the Center by Autism and Related Disabilities, staff are trained to be aware of visitors’ needs with autism. And once you’ve finished at Great Explorations, head next door to Sunken Gardens for a glimpse at an old Florida roadside attraction.
More than 26,000 square feet in downtown is home to The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art. The museum founders wanted to showcase their love of the western portion of the United States’ art and wildlife. The museum, which opened in 2017, was designed to showcase the unique art of The James. The stone entryway and two-story waterfall welcomes visitors and sets the tone. The themed galleries include the Early West, Native Artists and Wildlife and feature paintings and sculptures. In addition to the art, there are also family and adult workshops, a museum store and a café.
Founded in 1982 by a local businessman who had escaped Nazi Germany, The Florida Holocaust Museum’s purpose is to educate the past and how we can avoid future genocides. It is one of the largest Holocaust museums in the United States. The permanent exhibit teaches about how the Holocaust began, the rise of the Nazi party and the non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust. There is also a train boxcar on its original rails on display that is one of the few remaining train cars used to transport prisoners to concentration camps. There are also rotating exhibits to see too. In addition to exhibits, The Florida Holocaust Museum offers speaking presentations from Holocaust survivors and second-generation survivors. As many of the surviving victims have passed on, this is a unique opportunity.
Originally founded as the Art Club of St. Petersburg, Morean Arts Center has become a multi-location facility to promote various arts, including glass and clay making. The central downtown location’s galleries have permanent exhibits featuring local artists. There are also several rotating exhibits. Morean Arts Center offers art classes in different mediums, workshops and art camps for kids.
Part of the Morean Arts Center, and located across the street, is The Chihuly Collection. A permanent exhibit of glass art created by Dale Chihuly, this museum is special and rare. The Collection includes large scale pieces, some of which were created specifically for the Collection. The building itself is the first to be specifically designed to showcase Chihuly’s artwork. A ticket to The Chihuly Collection includes a live glass blowing demonstration at Morean Glass Studio and Shop.
The oldest museum in the county, the St. Petersburg Museum of History, highlights the city’s history and its surrounding areas. Located at the beginning of the St. Petersburg Pier, the museum gives visitors a location that has seen many changes over the past 100 years and is one of the city’s hot spots. The museum offers exhibits on the architecture of St. Petersburg, local artist creations, the history of the city and a replica of the plane used for the first commercial flight, which took off from St. Petersburg in 1914. The museum is also home to Little Cooperstown, home to the world’s largest signed baseball collection. Signatures include Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio and even Fidel Castro.