The art scenes of St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Tampa take visitors on an expansive, vibrant, and intricate cultural and historical journey from past to present. Even the most passionate art enthusiasts will be continually impressed discovering grassroots to fine arts, underground to digital street art, Salvador Dali to student art and ballet to street dancing.
The arts are crucial to the identity of St. Pete. Working artists have long called the city home and fostered a vibrant, flourishing community. Beautiful and thought-provoking sights can be seen around every corner — whether it is street art like the funky murals or world-class museums like the Dali — and the performing arts such as theater and dance are very active throughout the city.
St. Pete has not just one or two, but seven diverse art districts that celebrate the work of Salvador Dali, Dale Chihuly, Western history, world-class ballet and orchestras and grassroots music and art.
“We are a city of world-class museums, outstanding performing artists and performing art venues, galleries, districts, visual artists, art-related organizations and art-related educational opportunities,” said Terry Marks, CEO of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance. “Art draws us together, allows us to communicate what we know to be the truth.”
St. Pete’s commitment to the art community includes a comprehensive strategy to become the Southeastern United States’ creative epicenter. In 2021, St. Pete took a step toward that goal, opening the 40,000-square-foot Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, and the only museum in the world dedicated exclusively to the American Arts and Crafts movement.
Artistically inclined visitors may find a collection of 500 murals — celebrated every October during the Shine Mural Festival — and talented musicians filling St. Pete as the lively backdrop for this community of artists. Download a map at stpetesartalliance.com and get going, or get out for Second Saturdays for a grand overview of the eclectic to the extraordinary.
Seven Arts Districts: One Arts Destination
Hop aboard the trolley at St. Pete’s Waterfront District, which has the distinct honor of the world-class Salvador Dali Museum, housing 2,100 pieces of the master’s work. The building, a geodesic glass bubble created by architect Yann Weymouth, is a work of art on its own.
Additional legends like Picasso and Van Gogh are exhibited at the Dali. DillyDally with Dali games, puzzles and craft activities are an everyday event at this landmark.
The Mahaffey Theater is a Tampa Bay destination for The Florida Orchestra. The Center for the Performing Arts, St. Petersburg Museum of History, James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art, American State Theatre Company, Museum of Fine Arts are all central to the Waterfront District. Check out the new Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement here too.
Central Arts District
Downtown St. Pete houses the Central Arts District, where independent artists, studios and galleries color the landscape. The famous glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly, including the iconic 20-foot entry piece created distinctly for the Chihuly Collection site by the still-living artist, are a permanent fixture in St. Pete. Admission to Chihuly includes access to the Morean Arts Center across the street, where dedicated glass artists work.
Grand Central District
West of downtown is the Grand Central District, home to a mix of museums, galleries and antiques. Imagine Museum showcases the international world of glass art, and The Academy of Ballet Arts hosts both the St. Petersburg Ballet and St. Petersburg Folk Ensemble.
The Edge District
The Edge District, along St. Pete’s award-winning Main Street, is described as a vibrant, eclectic community. Mixed into a tapestry of murals are several galleries. A collection of artists is found here, including those at the Leslie Currant Gallery.
“We’re very proud of who we represent (here). Glass sculpture, glasswork, metal work — something for everyone,” said owner Leslie Currant.
Warehouse Arts District
Working artists find like-minded creatives in the Warehouse Art District, along 22nd Street South. Open to visitors, these shops and studios invite spectators to watch as they invent and create. Among the busy hub, Charlie Parker Pottery and Duncan McClellan Glass are well loved. The Morean Center for Clay, makers of high-quality pottery, is one of the largest working potteries in the Southeast and great place to pick up gifts.
Deuces Live District
Adjacent to the Warehouse Art District is the Deuces Live District, where Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday once played. Celebrate the area and the African American experience with a historical walk, jazz show or performance at The Carter G. Woodson African American Museum. it is dedicated to civil rights activist, publisher, author and historian Dr. Carter Woodson.
MLK North District
The MLK North District rounds out the menagerie of galleries and art districts. Small galleries and cafes run from 5th Avenue to 34th Avenue North. Visit the Mize Gallery or stop by The Banyan Tree, where artists and writers come together.
This article by Rose Derkay originally appeared in Guide to Greater Tampa Bay.