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Whether you’re a true art aficionado or simply a regular human, you’ll find that the art museums in St. Petersburg have some stuff that will blow your mind. The city is known for its murals and glass art (it’s part of the region known as the Glass Coast), but they’ve also got art from ancient cultures, eccentric painters (ever heard of Salvador Dali?) and everything in between.
1. Salvador Dalí Museum
Location: One Dalí Blvd.
Admission: Adults $25, Youth $10-18, Kids (5 & under) free
Hours: Wed – Sun 11am-6pm (until 8pm on Thursdays and Fridays)
You’ve heard of Salvador Dalí, right? The Spanish surrealist artist with the crazy mustache who painted really bizarre stuff like melting clocks and ridiculously tall elephants? The guy who basically embodied eccentricity? (He once showed up to a lecture in a Rolls Royce stuffed with cauliflower, and he titled his paintings things like “Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War)” and “Skull with Its Lyric Appendage Leaning on a Night Table Which Should Have the Exact Temperature of a Cardinal Bird’s Nest”.)
Well, St. Petersburg’s Dalí Museum has the largest collection of his art (2,400 works in a multitude of mediums) outside of his hometown museum in Spain. The collection includes paintings, drawings, book illustrations, sculpture, photography, manuscripts and more. And they have seven of his 18 “masterwork” paintings – massive canvases that he worked on for over a year.
The museum itself is also a work of art. Located in downtown St. Petersburg along the waterfront, it’s part modern concrete structure, part geodesic glass dome. The surrealism-inspired, 75-foot tall glass bubble is nicknamed “The Enigma” and was designed as a tribute to Dalí’s legacy of combining technical skill with innovation.
There are plenty of docents around to answer any questions you might have. They also have a great interactive app that tells you all about the history of the art and the museum itself. All that means this place is consistently ranked as one of the best art museums in St. Petersburg.
2. Museum of Fine Arts
Location: 255 Beach Dr. NE
Admission: Adults $20, Seniors/Military/Students $15, Youth $10, Kids (6 & under) free
Hours: Mon – Sat 10am-5pm (until 8pm Thursdays), Sun 12pm-5pm
The OG of art museums in St. Petersburg, the Museum of Fine Arts first opened in 1965 and has since grown to include multiple galleries, a sculpture garden and a collection of more than 20,000 pieces of art. They’ve got everything from ancient Greek, Egyptian and Asian art to works by Monet and O’Keeffe. They’ve also got one of the largest collections of photography in the Southeast plus a growing collection of new media and contemporary art.
This is what’s known as an encyclopedic art museum. The exhibits explore over 5,000 years of art across cultures. Room after room, you’ll be amazed at the breadth of the collection. Don’t think you can pop in here for an hour and see it all. It takes closer to three hours to really appreciate the place. (Although they do offer one-hour docent-led tours at 11am and 2pm Mon-Sat and 2pm on Sunday.) Good thing they have an on-site cafe. You might get the munchies after looking at all that art.
3. Morean Arts Center
Location: 719 Central Ave.
Admission: Free – $20, depending on location
Hours: Mon – Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12pm-5pm
So the Morean Arts Center is actually four different museums/galleries – the Morean Arts Center Gallery, the Chihuly Collection, the Morean Glass Studio & Hot Shop and the Morean Center for Clay.
Let’s start with the Morean Arts Center Gallery. The contemporary space is free and open to the public. It features works by talented local and international artists as well as classes and plenty of items to purchase. Lots of glass art here.
Right behind the gallery is the Morean Glass Studio & Hot Shop (explains all the glass art). There you’ll find glassblowing demonstrations, studio classes and working space for glass artists. The glassblowing demonstrations are especially cool (I mean hot). They’re held between 10am & 2pm Wed – Sat and 12pm to 2pm Sun. The glass artists explain the whole process as they create a work of art right before your eyes.
Across Central Avenue from the Gallery and Studio is the Chihuly Collection – a permanent display of Dale Chihuly’s unique glass installations (the guy basically invented modern glass art). The 10,000 square foot space features some really epic pieces, including “Ruby Red Icicle Chandelier” and “Persian Ceiling”. Pro Tip: Save yourself some cash by using the Tampa Bay CityPASS to see the Chihuly collection plus a bunch of other cool attractions in the area.
Finally, the Morean Center for Clay is about one and a half miles away, in the Warehouse Arts District of St. Petersburg. It includes galleries, classrooms, event space and studios for various working artists and artists in residence. Definitely worth a trip if you’re into sculpture or ceramics.
4. Imagine Museum
Location: 1901 Central Ave.
Admission: Adults $15, Senior/Military $13, Student/Youth $10, Kids (6 & under) free
Hours: Tue – Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12pm-5pm, Closed Monday
Although the Imagine Museum is still practically brand new (it opened in 2018), it has amassed an impressive collection of over 1,500 contemporary glass masterpieces. The enchanting pieces are created by leading artists from around the world who work in glass.
Now, listen to me everyone for a quick second. This place is friggin’ mesmerizing. No, like really. Before visiting, I was like, “Meh, what’s so great about stained glass?” After visiting, I was like, “Holy shit, there’s so much more to glass art (blown glass, fused glass, cast glass, etc.)!”
I literally said “wow” out loud multiple times while touring the Imagine. They’ve got a room with 1,000 glass Buddha heads! They’ve got a big, crazy lighted geodesic dome that makes you feel like you might fall into eternity! Trust me, you will be pleasantly surprised by this St. Petersburg art museum.
5. Duncan McClellan Gallery
Location: 2342 Emerson Ave. S.
Admission: Free but donations are accepted
Hours: Mon – Sat 10am-5pm, Closed Sunday
Art, gardens, cats. Need I say more? Well, I guess you should also know that the Duncan McClellan Gallery showcases over 50 glass artists in 3,000 square feet of gallery space and 5,000 square feet of lush sculpture gardens. They have rotating monthly shows, events, lectures and glass blowing demonstrations. They’re also known for their Mobile Glass Lab, which provides on-site demonstrations and hands-on experiences at local schools.
Okay, holup. What’s the deal with all the glass art in St. Pete? There’s the Chihuly Collection, Imagine Museum, Duncan McClellan Gallery and more. So what’s up with the Glass Coast? It’s serendipity really. Around 2010, several people had the same bright idea – to create a space designed specifically to display glass art. And all these people were drawn to create their vision in St. Petersburg. Now there are multiple museums, galleries and public art works in the area, all based on glass.
This gallery is actually a former tomato packing plant. Duncan McClellan bought it back in 2010 and transformed it into a tiny sanctuary in the middle of an industrial area. His work was instrumental in kick-starting the creation of the Warehouse Arts District, which is just west of downtown St. Petersburg.
So if your idea of a good time involves strolling through a tropical oasis lined with beautiful glass sculptures, petting soft, friendly cats and talking with folks who are truly passionate about art and community, this is a must-visit. If that doesn’t sound like a good time to you, I will personally dropkick you into the Grand Canyon. But not really. Because that would just mean more quality cat time for this crazy cat lady!
6. The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art
Location: 150 Central Ave.
Admission: Adults $20, Seniors/Students/Teachers/Military $15, Youth $10, Kids (6 & under) free
Hours: Mon – Sun 10am-5pm (until 8pm Tuesdays)
You like cowboys? You like the Wild West? Well, even if you don’t, The James Museum is pretty amazing. The 26,000 square foot space is architecturally stunning, and the works of art themselves – ranging from oil paintings to life-sized, hyper-realistic sculptures – is often breathtaking.
The goal of the museum is to “evoke the spirit of a wide open frontier and the beauty of life in the wild,” and they’ve done an excellent job of it. Through everything from landscapes to portraits, the museum tells the story of American Western culture. And that doesn’t just mean outdated, stereotypical “cowboys and Indians” type stuff. One of their current exhibitions explores the life of North America’s gay rodeo circuit, sharing scenes from a lesser-known part of the culture.
The museum also has an antique Western-style bar. It’s quite the experience to go from walking the busy streets of downtown St. Petersburg to having a drink in a space that looks like something straight out of the wicki-wicki-wild wild west.
7. Florida CraftArt
Location: 501 Central Ave.
Hours: Mon – Sat 10am- 5:30pm, Sun 12pm-5pm
Florida CraftArt’s 2,500 square foot retail gallery and adjacent exhibition space features work from all kinds of Florida-based artists. The curated exhibits change regularly with the goal of advancing Florida’s growing art scene. The pieces on display include glass art (of course), ceramics, paintings, textiles, jewelry and more. The location also plays host to lectures, panel discussions, workshops and artist studios.
The retail space is also ever-changing to showcase the wide array of work by local Florida artists. That makes this the perfect place to get real, meaningful souvenirs and gifts from your trip to St. Petersburg. You’ll find small items as inexpensive as 10 bucks on up to thousands of dollars for larger or more intricate pieces.
8. Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum
Location: 2240 9th Ave. S.
Hours: Tue-Fri 12pm-5pm
A small museum with a big heart, the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum exhibits artwork from African American artists with a focus on the history of both the African Diaspora and the local African American community. It was named after the African American civil rights leader best known as the founder of Black History Month.
One could argue that this is more of a history museum than an art museum, but their massive Black Lives Matter street mural would beg to differ. The museum’s programming really focuses on the intersection between history and art. Their ultimate goal is to celebrate, commemorate and preserve the legacy of the lives of black Americans.
There’s also a lovely garden with brick-lined paths, which is often used for local events. It has played host to movies in the gardens, chamber music by the Florida Orchestra and various panel discussions.
Plans are being made to build a much larger museum nearby. Hopefully they create a garden just as lovely as the current one at the new location.
9. Murals of St. Petersburg
Location: All over the city
Admission: Free, guided tours available for a fee
The city’s outdoor museum. There are over 100 murals located throughout St. Petersburg, but the main concentration is on Central Avenue between 5th Street and 28th Street. Be sure to check out Mural Alley behind the stores on the 600 block of Central Avenue. There you’ll find a giant shark mural that makes the perfect background for that “Ahh, I’m being eaten by a shark!” photo that everyone wants to get while on vacation.
Other popular murals include Carrie Jadus’ portrait of Nikola Tesla (2232 5th Avenue S.), Cecilia Lueza’s surreal, colorful portrait “The Blue Hour” (100 1st Avenue N.) and Becky Beukes’ angel and devil couple in “Diarchy” (1100 1st Avenue N.).
The murals of St. Petersburg are so popular that they inspired an annual festival called SHINE St. Pete, which takes place in October each year and results in many more murals being painted by both local and international artists.
You can discover these murals on your own (use the map at the link above), although not all of them are easy to spot. The other option is a guided tour. Florida CraftArt offers tours on Saturday mornings for a fee.
10. Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement
Location: 355 4th St. N.
Coming soon! Maybe? Hopefully. The Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement has been under construction for over five years, with multiple delays pushing back the opening date.
When it does eventually open, it will be the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the American Arts and Crafts movement, with 50,000 square feet of gallery space devoted to a collection of more than 2,000 items, including furniture, ceramics, glass, textiles, photography, jewelry and more. They’ll also have a restaurant, auditorium, library, banquet hall, graphics studio and darkroom facilities.
The five-story, 137,000 square foot building takes up an entire city block, with a soaring glass, metal and wood facade sitting on the edge of what will one day be a park. As for when exactly it will open? Who knows. “When things are ready, when it’s perfect, the doors will open,” says Executive Director Tom Magoulis.
Why These St. Petersburg Art Museums Are a Must-See
Because they’re made of gold and unicorn eyelashes. I think. At least, that’s what I’ve heard. But really, you should visit these art museums in St. Petersburg because art is one of the few things that’s good for loosening the ghosts in your blood. Trust me, they’ll make your eyeballs giggle.
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