Museum of American Arts and Crafts Movement dazzles in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG – For years, residents of St. Petersburg and beyond have been waiting for the opening of the Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement. On September 7, it was revealed to the public – and it’s mind-boggling.

Founded by collector Rudy Ciccarello, the museum is the first in the world dedicated to the Arts and Crafts movement, which occurred between around 1890 and 1930 and revived and elevated craftsmanship following the Industrial Revolution.

More than 800 works collected personally by Ciccarello are presented, partly coming from the Two Red Roses Foundation, of which he is the president and founder.

Designed by Tampa-based architect Alberto Alfonso in close collaboration with Ciccarello, the five-story, 137,000-square-foot museum is a triumph. Although the design is modern, it was built in accordance with the movement’s ideals of high-quality craftsmanship.

As you approach the museum through a courtyard adorned with fountains and period tiles, then enter the expansive Grand Atrium, unique architectural details are revealed.

The wooden walls are reminiscent of the joinery found in the furniture in the collection. Ships, a 600-tile mural by Rookwood Pottery circa 1914, is an introduction to more impressive installations. A grand spiral staircase clad in Venetian plaster and fitted with rich wood, metal, and lighting provides an easy climb with photo-worthy views.

The egg-shaped structure protruding from the exterior of the museum, called an ovoid, becomes curved interior gallery spaces on the four upper levels. In one of these spaces, sculpted furniture by Charles Rohlfs takes control. The museum’s use of natural light and a minimal color palette allows the objects in the collection to shine.

The museum is rich in information panels that provide fascinating context and detail about the artists, architects and companies associated with the movement.

A gallery dedicated to the movement’s eminent architects includes members of the Prairie School, including Frank Lloyd Wright, George Grant Elmslie, and George Washington Maher. Their common philosophy was to create an American style, with shapes and materials integrated with nature.

Maher’s Arched Poppy Windows of the Winton House in Wisconsin circa 1905 are at the entrance to the gallery.

Wright’s leaded glass skylights from the Arthur Heurtley House in Illinois sit in the center of the gallery, where natural light showcases the furniture, lighting and glass panels.

Pieces from period homes have been moved to the museum, including the warm wooden lobby of the Culbertson House in Pasadena, California, designed by Charles and Henry Greene in 1902.

A 1912 floor of Arthur Curtiss James’ Aloha Landing boathouse in Newport, Rhode Island, was designed by Addison LeBoutillier, chief designer of the Grueby Faience and Tile Company. It can be seen at ground level or from a floor above.

Lamps and lanterns glow in the lighting gallery. Coinciding with the increased use of electricity at the turn of the 20th century, designers, including Tiffany Studios, consciously incorporated natural elements like wood and made light fixtures have a warm glow rather than a glare.

Arts and Crafts tiles decorated early 20th-century American homes, adorning the walls, floors, and fireplaces. Ceramic companies such as Rookwood, Grueby, Marblehead and Newcomb have produced decorative and customizable tile installations. A gallery dedicated to tiling presents superb examples.

Pottery has been given a makeover by Arts and Crafts artists, who favored artisanal and simplified creations. Women have had the opportunity to become career artists, especially with the Newcomb Pottery company. Born out of Tulane University’s Women’s College, Newcomb College offered courses for women in porcelain painting, enamelling, and pottery-making. Newcomb Pottery has become a leading company in the movement.

The Collector’s Gallery features Ciccarello’s favorite pieces, including a range of paintings in Arts and Crafts frames, as well as pottery and ironwork.

Two temporary exhibitions are presented. “Love, Labor, and Art: The Roycroft Enterprise” features over 75 works by the Roycroft community, including books, furniture, metalwork and leaded glass.

“Lenses Embracing the Beautiful: Pictorial Photographs From the Two Red Roses Foundation” presents over 150 pictorial photographs by American and European photographers who have strived to push the medium in an artistic direction.

Other finds include a furniture gallery with crafts from Gustav Stickley, Byrdcliffe Colony, and Roycroft Shops. The Children’s Gallery features tile murals depicting fairy tales.

On the top floor, George Nakashima’s Arlyn table and Conoid dining chairs glow from within the ovoid. Although these pieces were built in the 1980s, Nakashima’s values ​​of expert craftsmanship and simplicity align with those of the Arts and Crafts movement.

This museum, and all the care and craftsmanship that has gone into it, is proof that these ideals hold.

If you are going to

The Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement. $ 25, $ 23 for seniors, $ 20 for active firefighters and military police, $ 10 for children 6 to 17, free for children 5 and under. Memberships are available. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday and Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. 355 Fourth Street N, St. Petersburg. 727-440-4859.

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