In St. Petersburg, local art is widely celebrated and promoted throughout the community. Exemplified in the murals that decorate countless buildings, big events like Localtopia and community based local markets, the city’s appreciation and celebration for local artists is easily recognized. Florida CraftArt, a statewide nonprofit organization based in St. Petersburg, Florida, works to engage with the community and promote its art. Along with providing mentorship and support for artists through galleries, shows and festivals, Florida CraftArt also offers educational lectures and activities to assist both children and adults. Additionally, support from the community is encouraged through free admission to galleries and Artlofts for all visitors.
Formally known as Florida Craftsmen, the organization originated in Deland, Florida in 1951. Professors Louis and Elsa Freund from Stetson University felt that Elsa’s homemade jewelry needed to be shown for the art that it was, so they organized annual exhibitions in galleries. In 1977, the organization became incorporated and later received its first home in 1986. However, the first space which truly looked and felt like a gallery was obtained in 1995. Florida Craftsmen officially bought the building in 2002, changing their name to Florida CraftArt in 2014. The establishment has since become the heart of the Central Arts District.
“… downtown, cornerstone, nonprofit organization.”
Tyler Jones, who is both a RE/MAX Metro agent and the president of Florida CraftArt, met with us to talk a bit about the establishment, describing it as a, “…downtown, cornerstone, nonprofit organization.” He explained that the facility only houses art from certain artists, putting the focus on both members of Florida CraftArt and Florida residents. As a membership-driven organization, Florida CraftArt offers its members discounts, perks, and exclusive looks into the company. Still, members are not the only ones who can enjoy the gallery. “The entire facility is opened to the public seven days a week,” Tyler explained.
Due to its central location and some of the largest storefront windows in the downtown corridor, the store gets significant foot traffic. Ryan, RE/MAX Metro’s media representative, described the popularity of the location, saying, “If you’re a St. Petersburg native and you walk past this intersection with the big mural in the ground, you know exactly where you are because you see all the art in the windows,” then added, “It’s a beautiful place to visit.” The gallery houses numerous kinds of mediums, including glass, ceramics, fiber and wood. Wooden pieces of art have different styles featured in the gallery, such as sculpted, carved, and turned, which is created through the use of a lathe.
“We have two sections of Florida CraftArt,” Tyler explained. The gallery consists of both a store, where everything is available to the public to be purchased and a rotating exhibit. The exhibition space has artworks that are curated and judged throughout the year, with about 8 or 9 annually. There are many different kinds of exhibits hosted in this space, such as fiber, pottery and even a pet exhibit coming soon, which highlights pets and is sponsored by both SPCA and AARP. Programming is available with usually 7 to 9 programs surrounding the current exhibits. These include artist talks, meet and greets, collector circle events and private VIP dinners for the openings.
As a nonprofit organization, Florida CraftArt relies on the support of the community and local artists. Membership is available in individual, family and corporate packages, and donations are always accepted. Stop by on 5th and Central to encourage St. Petersburg’s artistic community through Florida CraftArt!