The five-story steel, glass, wood and concrete building looks ready for visitors, at least from the outside, but the doors to Rudy Cicarello’s $90 million Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement are still locked up tight.
The five-story structure at the intersection of 4th Street and 3rd Avenue South has been more or less ready for occupancy for half a year, but executive director Tom Magoulis says the all-important interior – the future home of Cicarello’s extensive collection of works from the early 20th Century – still has a ways to go. And, he adds, any opening date is still nothing more than a working theory, thanks to COVID-19.
“We’re fortunate in that we hadn’t staffed up,” Magoulis explains. “We’re looking at 50, 60, I don’t know how many employees but probably a significant number. And given what’s going on, we felt it would be not a good idea to onboard staff, get them trained, bring them in, and a few weeks later, a month later, have the possibility of having to let them go.”
Like St. Petersburg’s other museum administrators, Magoulis and Ciccarello – the Tarpon Springs millionaire who made his fortune in the pharmaceutical business – are carefully monitoring the local coronavirus numbers.
“There’s nothing more important to us than getting this thing open,” Magoulis says. “But we don’t want to open and then have to close.”
Key to the gallery design inside the 137,000-square-foot facility are the custom-made platforms and vitrines (glass display cases) to house the vintage art.
The New York manufacturer lost valuable production time due to the pandemic. “So they couldn’t produce the materials that we needed. That put us back a number of months.”
The platforms and vitrines have since arrived, and will be installed soon. In the meantime, according to Magoulis, “The curators are spending hours and hours cleaning stained glass, murals, friezes, lamps and other things. That’s the result of not having fixtures to place the art on.”
The Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement will open eventually, but for now, there’s no guarantee, no magic equation, no conceivable countdown.
“It’s unfortunate and sort of unsettling at the same time,” says Magoulis. “We know that tourism is picking up somewhat, but will that continue? The virus is controlling this thing, I think.”