Hidden Art Gems of Tampa Bay

When fine art is mentioned in Tampa Bay, there’s no escaping the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg. As the world’s most comprehensive collection of the Spanish artist’s work, The Dalí alone is enough to consider Tampa Bay a destination for art. But the Bay area is ripe with masterpieces at other venues that also deserve the art seeker’s attention.

CHIHULY COLLECTION AT THE MOREAN ARTS CENTER
The newest jewel to grace the Tampa Bay arts scene is the Chihuly Collection at The Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg. Dale Chihuly is the undisputed king of art glass. His hand-blown sculptures with their elegant, flowing grace in a rainbow of juicy colors are pure happiness and whimsy. The Morean Arts Center is home to the only permanent showcase in the world of Chihuly’s most famous and elaborate works, including the 20-foot “Ruby Red Icicle Chandelier” created specifically for the gallery.

The 10,000-square-foot space, designed by architect Albert Alfonso, was created to showcase a number of Chihuly’s large-scale installations, such as “Mille Fiori,” “Baskets,” “Chandeliers” and “Float Boat.” Five main galleries provide unique spaces designed specifically to complement the complexity and beauty of Chihuly’s glass visions.

The Morean is home to a living glass studio where resident glass artists give demonstrations and even offer one-on-one glass blowing tutorials open to the public. A real Chihuly may be out of reach for most, but the museum’s retail store, Hot Shop, offers the chance to purchase gorgeous studio-edition glass pieces created by the resident glass artists and other talented glass artisans. Rotating shows include works by local and national artists in a variety of other mediums such as clay sculpture, photography and painting.
719 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727.822.7872, www.chihulycollectionstpete.org

TAMPA MUSEUM OF ART
In the past, downtown Tampa’s art offerings have taken a back seat to St. Petersburg, its creative neighbor to the south, but the city recently won a decade-long struggle over funding, architectural design and location to bring the $32-million Tampa Museum of Art to life.

The gleaming new structure on a picturesque bank of the Hillsborough River, designed by architect Stanley Saitowitz, is worthy of any art lover’s attention. More than just a pretty building, the Tampa Museum of Art is dedicated to bringing world-renowned art to its halls. The museum’s permanent collections are rich with Greek and Roman antiquities, 20th-century American paintings and photography that includes images from Cindy Sherman and Chuck Close. Seven spacious interior galleries and an outdoor sculpture garden offer visitors a variety of spaces to experience iconic artists from Matisse to Rauschenberg.

Recent exhibitions included “Degas: Form, Movement and the Antique;” and “A Celebration of Henri Matisse, Master of Line and Light.”
120 W. Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa, 813.274.8130. www.tampamuseum.org

MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS
In St. Petersburg, the Museum of Fine Art houses a trove of fine art that spans many centuries and disciplines. The museum’s permanent collection of more than 14,000 objects includes European, Native American, pre-Columbian, Asian and African works. Highlights from the collection feature stellar French Impressionist paintings, plus galleries of Steuben glass and decorative arts. The museum’s photography collection is one of Florida’s most respected and includes over 10,000 images.

In 2008 the MFA embarked on an expansion project and added a new, two-story wing, designed by architect Yann Weymouth, to its original Palladian-style building. The new wing at the museum serves as spacious gallery space for traveling exhibitions such as the recent and impressive shows: “Whistler, Hassam, and the Etching Revival” and “Romantics to Moderns: A Survey of British Watercolors and Drawings.”
255 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg, 727.896.2667, www.fine-arts.org

DUNEDIN FINE ART CENTER
This little museum may not have as much square footage when compared to other museums in Tampa Bay, but its passion for everything art is worth the trek to the charming town of Dunedin.

One of DFAC’s strengths is showing the works of talented artists with strong ties to the area. Recent shows in the museum included a juried exhibit, “Pastel Exhibits at DFAC,” hosted by the Pastel Society of Florida featuring works by members of the society and a colorful exhibit of quilts put together by IQ Quilters, a Tampa Bay quilt guild.

Fun events and a diversity of education programs for all are also on the Art Center’s agenda. Both adults and children can sign up for art classes in a variety subjects such as clay, drawing, glass, jewelry, painting and photography. Before heading out to explore the rest of Dunedin, visitors can kick back with a cup of gourmet Joe on the patio of Stephen’s Palm Café.
1143 Michigan Blvd., Dunedin, 727.298.DFAC, www.dfac.org