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St. Pete’s art museums are opening back up … slowly

Bill DeYoung



The Salvador Dali Museum is St. Petersburg's leading tourist-visitation museum. Photo provided.

The wide open spaces built into the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art are proving advantageous.

The James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art’s spacious Arroyo. Photo provided.

Designed to resemble the sandstone canyons of the American West, the museum’s two-story Arroyo – that’s what they call the lobby and spacious entranceway to the galleries, with a cascading waterfall at the far end – easily allows for the sort of social distancing suggested by the latest round of COVID-19 re-opening regulations.

The James Museum started allowing visitors in Saturday, June 13. At 25 percent of capacity, executive director Laura Hine says, the spatial galleries (and Arroyo) can make a person feel far away from coronavirus and crowds and craziness.

Hine and her team promoted the re-opening as 26,000 Square Feet of Calm.

It’s been slow and steady, she says. “There aren’t lot of people coming, but the people who do come are very grateful. They’re very at ease. Our space is large and quiet and clean and serene.

“We’ve had very positive feedback from those who have come, and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback through social media, and in emails we’ve received.”

The James Museum, she adds, “in total is about 88,000 square feet, so that 26,000 is just our public space. There’s lots of space – we aren’t going to have distancing issues.”

All of St. Petersburg’s museums report strenuous cleaning and sanitizing efforts are now the norm, and along with the mandatory six-feet-apart directive, and the reduced visitor capacity, face masks are required. Hand sanitizer stations are strategically placed throughout.

The Dali Museum, St. Petersburg’s most-visited art facility, will re-open July 1.

Dali COO Kathy Greif says that while the recent “virtual Dali” experiences have been extremely well-received (and will continue for the time being), “we are most excited to welcome people back to the awe-inspiring building that houses Dali’s original works – a place where people can come together and share in an uplifting experience.”

At first, Dali days of operation will be Wednesday through Sunday, opening at 11 a.m. daily. “We are also opening from 10 to 11 a.m. on Wednesday and Thursday mornings for seniors-only,” Greif explains, “to provide extra physical distancing, along with the numerous other health and safety measures to keep our visitors safe.”

Thursday and Friday closing time has been extended to 8 p.m. “We expect to see a shift from a largely tourist audience to a more local audience,” says Greif. “We have adapted our hours to better serve the Tampa Bay community.”

“All protocols are working regarding mask wearing, social distancing and advance ticket sales,” reports Imagine Museum executive director Jane Buckman, whose art-glass facility re-opened May 9.

“Our attendance has increased 74 percent from our first days of opening. We’re hopeful, seeing these numbers increase over time, that people are finding our museum a safe and uplifting environment to experience while we all manage the disruptive times we’re living in.”

The Morean Arts Center’s Chihuly Collection, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in July, has been open since Memorial Day weekend.

The Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg remains a holdout, and will remain off-limits for the time being, according to executive director Kristen Shepherd in a Monday email exchange with the Catalyst. She remains “cautious,” she says.

“I’m not motivated by anything other than my desire to serve the community to the best of our ability,” Shepherd explained May 14 on The Catalyst Sessions. “And we won’t put our community or our staff in any jeopardy while we think there’s any risk.”

An email to Tom Magoulis, executive director of the Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, was not immediately returned. The new $90 million, 137,000-square-foot museum has never been opened to the public, although several “projected” dates have come and gone.












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