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$90 million, five-story art museum nearing completion

Bill DeYoung

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Major construction of the Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, seen here from 3rd Street N., is expected to be complete by mid-summer. Photo by Bill DeYoung

St. Petersburg’s latest world-class museum – a five-story architectural wonder that’s dominated the corner of 3rd Avenue and 4th Street N. for two years – is finally close to announcing an opening date.

Construction is winding down on the Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, a $90 million passion project for Tarpon Springs businessman Rudolfo “Rudy” Ciccarello, whose collection of furniture, metalwork, lighting, ceramics, paintings, prints, photography and other objects d’art produced between 1890 and 1930 is reported to be one of the finest, and most extensive, in the world.

“We expect to be able to move in fixtures and furniture by the end of July,” executive vice president Tom Magoulis said this week. “The collection will not be moved in until all workers have left the site. Our tentative opening to the public is scheduled sometime in November 2019, if and when all exhibit galleries and other studios and departments are ready.”

Rendering by Alfonso Architects.

The 137,100-square-foot facility will be the third self-funded museum to open in St. Pete in recent years, following the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art (built by retired financial titan and art collector Tom James) and the Imagine Museum (owned by art-glass collector and philanthropist Trish Duggan).

The American Arts and Crafts Movement of the early 20th Century was, in many ways, a reaction to the ongoing Industrial Revolution. From art to architecture, the focus was on craftsmanship, the use of nature as inspiration, and the value of simplicity, utility – and beauty.

Ciccarello, 70, is the retired founder of Florida Infusion Services, a pharmaceutical distributor.  He has been collecting American decorative and fine arts since the mid 1990s, and has amassed more than 2,000 pieces, including such names as Gustav Stickley, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Rohlfs, Byrdcliffe, Dirk van Erp, Grueby, Alsop Robineau, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen and Alvin Langdon Coburn.

He created the nonprofit Two Roses Foundation in 2004, and endowed it with much of his collection. Ciccarello and the museum staff currently work out of the Two Red Roses headquarters in Palm Harbor.

Except for $6 million in bed tax money donated by the Pinellas County Commission, Ciccarello funded the Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement out of his own pocket (and the $90 million price tag does not include the insured value of his collection). “Rudy believes it is important that this pre-eminent collection be shared, appreciated and enjoyed by the public, hence the formation of this nonprofit private foundation, the Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement (MAACM),” Magoulis explained.

Rudy Ciccarello and architect Alberto Alfonso. Photo: Two Red Roses Foundation.

Ciccarello worked closely with architect Alberto Alonso on the facility’s complex design. The east-side parking garage was built first, but the museum itself took three years of revisions, Alonso said during a December, 2017 talk with the Downtown Neighborhood Association, because Ciccarello wants things done exactly right, and to his specifications.

In an interview with the art auction site Toomeyco.com, Ciccarello explained his desire for a certain kind of artistic symmetry. “Our goal and challenge was to find a balance between the art and the architecture,” he said. “I believe the final result is a seamless combination of both: contemporary yet mindful of tradition.

“There are unique architectural features evoking the American Arts and Crafts movement throughout — from the spiral, Mackintosh-inspired, rose staircase to the multi-colored, Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced, stained-glass skylight windows to the white, stone-clad, pottery-like ovoids on the building’s exterior.”

The granite-and-bronze building will include an atrium, five elevator shafts, a 100-seat auditorium, a graphics studio, an upscale restaurant, a library, a gift shop and 40,000 square feet of gallery space.

“The brilliant Brazilian granite panels that wrap around the building stand out and provide an unmistakable St. Petersburg landmark,” said Magoulis. “Over 60,000 square feet of rich, quarter-sawn white oak flooring will be installed, preparing the space for installation of furniture, fixtures, and eventually, the collection.”

Already on board, Magoulis said, are a senior curator and curatorial staff, a Director of Education and an IT/Designer. “Most of the other employees will be hired after July 1,” he added.

According to Magoulis, the Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement will deliver approximately 18,000 hotel room nights, and 175,000 visitors, annually.

“We will open with two temporary exhibitions,” he said, “and will make formal announcements regarding their titles, content and relevance in the coming months.

Southwest view of the building. Photo by Bill DeYoung.

“In addition, there are a number of temporary exhibitions in the late planning stages that, like the opening exhibitions, will complement the museum’s mission, have significant historic and artistic importance and that, we hope, will be very popular and well received by the local community and visitors from around the country.

“MAACM plans to rely on an ambitious, robust, diverse and entertaining public programming agenda that will include the entire community.”

The City has pledged $500,000 for streetscape improvements in the immediate area.

“This museum is, from a City perspective, just another step in the growth of our arts and culture community,” said City Managing Director of Development Coordination Chris Ballestra. “Both Rudy Ciccarello and Tom Magoulis have done an amazing job. And it’s really in a prominent location in the city.

“It’s more than just art, it’s a movement, and it’s a little bit special and different from the rest of our existing arts culture. So we’ve got differentiation, which just adds to the beautiful collage of everything we have downtown right now. We could not be more excited.”

 

 

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