By Marcea Cazel, guest blogger and founder of My Cornacopia
Located on the west coast of Florida, near some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, sits St. Petersburg. Once known as “God’s Waiting Room” and at one time a run-down shadow of a city, St. Petersburg in the past several years has exploded into a major arts and creative mecca. With a vibrant downtown area, community events, museums and tours, it’s a great place to connect kids and the arts scene in St. Petersburg, Florida for an art-filled cultural getaway.
Kids and the Arts Scene in St. Petersburg, Florida
Here are just a few locations in downtown St. Pete to see the arts in a different way that kids and adults will enjoy.
The James Museum of Western + Wildlife Art
The newest art museum in St. Petersburg, The James Museum opened in 2018. With a focus on art from the western United States, the galleries are made up of a permanent collection and special exhibitions. The art includes paintings, sculptures and jewelry.
The permanent collection is made up of galleries based on the Early West, Native Life, Native Artists, the Frontier, Wildlife and the New West. The special exhibits rotate and focus on topics such as the environment and the works of Edward S. Curtis.
The James is very focused on including children so keep an eye out for a variety of camps and family days, which take place the second Saturday of each month. There are also public tours available every day and all day Tuesdays admission is $10 all day. They also have special events after 5pm on Tuesdays such as Western movies and gallery talks.
Located on Tampa Bay, The Dali Museum houses the most works of Salvador Dali outside of Spain. Founded in 1977 via a private collection from Ohio, The Dali, as it’s known, was originally housed in an old warehouse. Its new home was completed in 2011.
Even before you enter, The Dali is a sight that children will enjoy. The backside of the museum holds the garden area. With over 300 succulents and cacti, olive trees, cypress trees and palm trees, it also has sculptures and carved rocks for sitting.
There’s a labyrinth that you can’t get lost in. There’s also a wishing tree, where at the end of their stay visitors take their entry band off and write a wish. Then they can attach it to the strings hanging off the tree. The employees take the wishes down every few months and once a year read them out loud at a ceremony. Children who enjoy nature and gardening would love to take the garden tour. It’s only available on Mondays at 10:30 am but it’s free. This tour is well worth the 45 minutes to learn more about Dali and the significance of the items in the garden.
While you’re in the garden, turn around and take a look at The Enigma. Comprised of 1,062 double paned panels, The Enigma is art in itself. The panels were created not only for beauty but also functionality. They help keep the museum cool and at low humidity, which is important in Florida. If your children are interested in architecture, be sure to catch the architecture tour that takes place every day.
There are two galleries in The Dali – the permanent exhibit that houses Dali’s work and the rotating exhibit that features other artists. Before going upstairs to the galleries though, be sure to get an audio Dali Museum tour guide. They’re free and give a great overview of many of the pieces you’ll see both in the permanent and rotating exhibits. If you’d rather not borrow the headsets, bring your phone and your earbuds and download the app that has the tour on it. Reception inside the building can be a little iffy though, so plan on using their audio guide as a backup if you have issues.
Note: some of the paintings and sculptures by Salvador Dali are of a sexual nature. However, they are created in a surrealist manner, so it’s not always obvious.
Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg
In a large building across from high-end restaurants and shops in downtown sits the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg (MFA).
The museum is broken up into two main parts: the MFA collection and What’s Currently On Display, which are rotating exhibits. The beauty of MFA is that those two parts are broken up into smaller parts so there’s plenty for families to see, making it a great place to spend the day.
What’s Currently On Display are shown in different galleries. Exhibitions have ranged from topics such as the costumes of Star Wars, the art of clocks and watches, to abstract American art. Others have featured the jewelry of Jean Schlumberger, and a collection of hats worn by civil rights icon Dr. Dorothy Height. The variety of the rotating displays makes it an even more interesting and educational place for kids, since those exhibits are what some would consider traditional art.
The Collection at MFA
MFA’s collection is extensive. When you think you’ve reached the end, there’s another corner to observe. The collection is broken up into specific categories including art from the continents of Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania. There are all permanent displays in the decorative and photography genres. The art displayed in these categories is further broken down into a multitude of categories. Mediums are covered such as drawings, studio glass, abstract, portraits, mixed media and 17th century. There’s really something for every art lover at MFA.
MFA is a large museum, so be sure to dedicate at least half your day if you’re the type of family who likes to explore and read all the placards. There’s also a cafe on site that has a kid’s menu and indoor/outdoor seating, which overlooks the marina on Tampa Bay.
Ask about Kidding Around Yoga– two Saturdays a month, the museum hosts yoga classes for kids and families. The cost is only $5 and it includes admission into the collection galleries.
MFA also has special pricing on Thursdays. From 5 pm to 8 pm admission is only $10 per person. Children 6 and under are always free.
Walking Murals Tour
St. Petersburg has over 200 outdoor murals gracing its buildings. The murals are across the over 130 square miles of the city, and a large majority are concentrated in the vicinity of downtown. Florida CraftArt, a non-profit that represents fine craft artists, hosts the tour. It shows off 30 of the murals within four blocks of the Central Arts District.
All of the murals are commissioned and the artists are paid for their work. Some of the art was commissioned by the building owner, while some were created artists who work with the St. Petersburg Art Alliance SHINE Festival.
The tour is a great way for families to explore the arts of St. Petersburg without being inside. The tour is given by a local artist, and there are many fun facts that are included about St. Petersburg and its history. You’ll also learn more about tags, slap stickers and wheat paint posters – all part of the arts scene that you may have noticed but never knew their purpose.
Come for the arts – stay for the sunshine!
St. Petersburg has so many things to do to engage your entire family in the arts. If you are arts enthusiasts and want to experience the beauty of The Sunshine City, make plans to visit and prepare to be immersed in a vibrant arts scene. It really is a great way to connect kids and the arts scene in St. Petersburg, Florida.