Art glass inspired by nature in St. Petersburg, Florida

Saturday, February 16th, 2013. Filed under: Art Destination Guides Florida United States

Morean White Seaform Set (2010), glass, Dale Chihuly, Chihuly Collection.

Fluid and luminous, art glass seems naturally inspired by ocean waves, sunsets and seashells.

Seashells and seaweed on on St. Petersburg Beach.

St. Petersburg, Florida, is a hotbed of hot glass. Its growing community of glass artists and glass blowing studios offers many opportunities to explore this magical art form. And much of the work is inspired by the area’s natural beauty.

White and Ethereal Blue Persian Set (2011) by Dale Chihuly, in lobby of the historic Renaissance Vinoy hotel. The Vinoy also has a Chihuly chandelier.

 

Miles of beach and healthy sand dunes at Pass-a-Grille beach, St. Pete.

At the Chihuly Collection on Beach Drive, fantastical pieces by glass wizard Dale Chihuly are showcased in a building specially designed for them by architect Albert Alfonso. Why a permanent Chihuly museum in St. Pete? The artist began visiting in the 1980s and has had a long relationship with St. Pete’s arts community. On display, Chihuly’s signature chandeliers, a Persian ceiling, Tumbleweeds, Ikebana and a dreamlike room with orb-and-boat Nijima Floats.

Pat and I had been watching the sunset every night from a different beach, so I was especially captivated by Chihuly’s 25-foot Sunset Persian Wall.

Sunset Persian Wall (2010), 25 feet long, glass, Dale Chihuly, Chihuly Collection.

Morean Arts Center, Glass Studio & Hot Shop:  The Chihuly Collection is presented by the Morean Arts Center which also operates a glass studio and hot shop at its location on Central Avenue. Visitors can watch glass blowing demonstrations, sign up for glass blowing workshops and buy glass art by local artisans at within-reach prices.

Glass blowing demo at the Morean Arts Center’s Glass Studio.

Duncan McClellan Gallery:  Glass artist Duncan McClellan uses both ancient and modern techniques to create bold contemporary pieces. Duncan is an interesting guy; he studied in Venice, has an interest in ancient alchemy, and conducts a school outreach program in St. Pete. His gallery, a former tomato processing plant in St. Pete’s Warehouse Arts District, represents fine glass artists from around the world.

Three Graces (detail), layered and sand-etched glass, Duncan McClellan.

Duncan is a founding member of St. Petersburg’s Warehouse Arts District, a hip cultural hub. Approximately 225 artists work in the District’s square mile, 15 of them glass artists. The WAD’s Second Saturday evenings has art lovers venue-hopping through the District on a free trolley–great fun!

More sunset hues: Cylinder Duo, blown glass by Jacob Stout, at Duncan McClellan Gallery.

Other shops around town, including museum stores at the Museum of Fine Arts and the Dali Museum, feature one-of-a-kind glass jewellery by local craftspeople.

My husband Pat is usually more interested in swimming and vintage shopping (plenty in St. Pete) than art but he really enjoyed meeting the glass artists and learning about the craft. As glittering Tampa Bay fell away below our flight home, I reflected that St. Petersburg is a great destination for couples or family groups with differing interests.

From fine art to food, from baseball spring training camps to adorable marine mammals, everyone can find their heart’s content here.

Honeymoon Island State Park, Florida.

Tips:  Our trip to St. Pete was a last-minute impulse. Not finding any direct flights from Toronto to St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport available, we searched Tampa airport and got a direct flight at a great price.  We rented a car to get around but also had fun using the trolley lines (Clearwater Jolley Trolley connects to St. Petersburg’s Suncoast Beach Trolley) that go up and down the coast and around downtown St. Petersburg (Looper Trolley).

Links:

Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater.  Voted “Number One Mid-Sized City Destination for the Arts” in 2012 by America Style Magazine, St. Petersburg offers extraordinary arts experiences along with some of the finest beaches in the world.

Creative Loafing Tampa.  A free weekly magazine covering arts and events in Tampa/St. Petersburg.

Sunset Beach, Tarpon Springs, Florida.

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