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Florida International Museum in downtown St Petersburg Florida

Treasure of the Czars exhibit

Treasure of the Czars exhibit

Florida International Museum opened in downtown St Petersburg Florida on January 11, 1995, with Treasures of the Czars, after nearly 4 years of work putting it together. The current exhibit, Thanks for the Memories, will close in December, the end of the Florida International Museum.

Friday an appreciation luncheon was held for the volunteers – it was the first banquet I’ve attended where boxes of Kleenex were next to the floral centerpieces. A number of attendees have been volunteers for the entire fifteen years of the museum. Those volunteers are examples of dedication and passion. (disclaimer: I was one of the founding members of the Board of Directors and have been a board member from the beginning to the end).

Also in attendance were David Fisher,  Jim Broughton,  Ira Mitlin,  Rick Baker, Joe Cronin,  Kathy Oathout, chairmen and members of the board, representatives of St Pete College who took FIM under its wing, and enough more to fill the ballroom at the Renaissance Vinoy Hotel.  Sadly, John and Rosemary Galbraith were unable to attend. The Galbraiths were ideal citizens, donating their money, time and passion to so much of St Petersburg. A heartfelt Thank You to all involved.

It was appropriate to look up and see the Chihuly chandelier – Chihuly probably wouldn’t be here today if the Florida International Museum  hadn’t happened.  Treasures of the Czars brought over 600,000 visitors to downtown St Pete to see the exhibit and brought an economic impact of $34 million to the community. Attendance at the Titanic topped 830,000. Visitors came from 50 states and 100 countries. Visitors, including hundreds of school children, were exposed to treasures and culture from other parts of the world.

In addition to the cultural impact, I strongly believe that the Florida International Museum and its early success in bringing people downtown was a catalyst for the development and blossoming of downtown St Pete. Thank You, to all who were any part of the Florida International Museum.

Lennie Bennett recently wrote about the history of the Florida International Museum in the St Pete Times. You can read more there. The current and final exhibit “Thanks for the Memories” is  free, a first for a museum that made and lost millions.

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St Petersburg College downtown arts complex

Lighting at St Pete College downtown Arts Center

The lobby of the new downtown arts complex of St Petersburg College was the venue for the pre-opening reception for the new Florida International Museum exhibit. Suspended in the dome of the lobby are a circle of contemporary shapes that remind me of dolphins. On cue, the lights come on and change colors (too fast a rotation for me, I’d like to enjoy each color for a few more seconds) – a contemporary touch for a contemporary exhibit from the Gulf Coast Museum, whose collection is now owned by St Petersburg College. This art and cultural center is also the new home for the American Stage Theater, whose first show there starts June 5th. It’s also home to the Florida Orchestra. Within walking distance is The Palladium which offers music, dance, theater and more.

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Florida International Museum reopens

Florida International Museum presents In a New Light

The Florida International Museum has reopened as part of the St Petersburg College Downtown Arts Cultural Center. Appropriately, the first exhibit comes from the Gulf Coast Museum of Art collection, which is also part of St Petersburg College‘s contribution to the arts. The current In a New Light exhibit is a juxtaposition of pottery, paintings, furniture and other comtemporary media. George, Tami and I were all invited guests to a pre-opening reception and preview on Friday night, and we each found things to enjoy. I was a Director of the Florida International Museum from its inception, from Treasures of the Czars in 1995 through the Vatican Splendors in 2008. It’s gratifying to see the museum continue under St Petersburg College which has created a magical synergy of the arts in downtown St Pete.

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Downtown St Petersburg to host Vatican exhibit

Downtown St Petersburg will have another exciting exhibition when the Florida International Museum opens the Vatican Splendors exhibition on February 9, 2008. Art, artifacts and historical objects will be displayed until May 11th – one of the largest collections ever to leave the Vatican in Rome.

Florida International Museum has been pursuing this collection from St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and Swiss Guard since 2006 – and as a member of their Board of Directors, I can assure you that it hasn’t been easy.

The items will be on a 3 city tour – St Pete is first. The others haven’t been confirmed but St. Paul, Minnesota and Cleveland, Ohio, are in negotiations for it.

Due to the expected large numbers, entries will be timed. Tickets will be available in time to give them as Christmas gifts. Make your plans to visit the exhibit between Feb 9 and May 11.

The first blockbuster exhibition at Florida International Museum was Treasures of the Czars, which opened in January 1995, in a then sleepy downtown. The blossoming of downtown St. Petersburg since that time has often been attributed to the success of that first exhibit. Lines of people wound around the block, showing that hundreds of thousands of people could indeed be attracted to downtown St. Petersburg!

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