Two of St. Petersburg’s pillars of philanthropy have joined forces to bring more art, and more cultural education, into the community.
Bill Edwards, who has operated the city-owned Mahaffey Theater for 13 years, and Imagine Museum founder Trish Duggan are auctioning 30 pieces of contemporary glass art – with half of the proceeds earmarked for their charities (the other 50 percent will go to the artists).
Duggan, whose museum houses her extensive private collection of glass art – one of the largest and most diverse in the southeast – joined Edwards at a reception Wednesday afternoon at the theater’s second-level art gallery.
The “Glass Harmonies” auction, she said, was the brainchild of Imagine’s executive director David Flatt, who joined her team in March. Flatt hit the ground running and began looking for community engagement and philanthropic opportunities. Which led to Bill Edwards.
“I looked him up, and we did so many similar philanthropic things,” Duggan said. “He’s just a very good person who’s really helping this community – and I’m trying to do the same thing. So I thought ‘I’m going to help him.’”
Duggan and Edwards met for the first time Wednesday.
It’s the fifth time the Bill Edwards Foundation for the Arts has partnered with another arts-focused community nonprofit – previous collaborators have included Creative Clay, Arts Conservatory for Teens, Warehouse Arts District Association and PARC.
“We created this series last year to celebrate visual and performing arts and to help connect the philanthropic community,” Foundation president Amy Miller said. “Imagine Museum was a great continuation of this project and we were thrilled to host them.”
The 30 displayed pieces will be on site at the Mahaffey (and online) through Aug. 31. Artists include Duncan McClellan, Bertil Vallien, Bula Barua, Harry Boux, Jason Christian, Trish Duggan herself, and others.
Twenty-five percent of the final auction price will go to the Edwards Foundation, which brings area schoolchildren to the theater for productions that combine entertainment with education; another 25 percent will be given to the Imagine Museum to support its children’s tours and other community programming.
“We’re trying to make it more inclusive and to bring more of the local community into the museum,” explained Flatt.
“And what we’re also trying to include is the older people in the community, people who are living in retirement homes,” offered Duggan. “Get them to come to the museum. Because it’s really, really uplifting these people. We had one man who came and cried. He said ‘I’ve been in lockdown for two years; I’ve seen nothing. It was so beautiful and enlightening.’
“And he gave $500, which was so unexpected, and so kind.”
In his public comments, Edwards reflected on the theater’s history, discussed its diverse programming and enthusiastically thanked his staff. “This theater runs on people who love to be here, and work hard, and come here every day,” he said.
“We get up every morning, we come in here and we pound the rock, you know? Because we believe that it takes a village to make things happen.”
Edwards talked about the pride he felt watching his young daughter perform in a recent dance recital on the Mahaffey stage. “I’d never been to a dance recital in my life,” he said. “That’s pretty important to me. And to the rest of the parents who are here.”
As for the auction – the Mahaffey’s eighth such partnering with an arts institution – Edwards was effusive in his gratitude to Duggan and Platt.
He had privately toured the exhibit, he explained. “I’m in love with a couple of pieces. I didn’t realize I’d have to wait till August – I’m used to getting what I want quickly!
“In this case, I have to wait. But I will.”