The vibrant red flowers and proud limbs of the MFA’s Kapok—aka Bombax Tree—draw in passers-by as if on cue. A favorite backdrop for photos, the museum and its famous tree serve as an anchor point on Beach Drive. Though few know it, the Museum was one of the first actual points on the strip, built in its original form in 1965. Before then it was literally just sand, bay, and the brave new Museum of Fine Arts (and down the road, the Vinoy).
Fast forward: the MFA is world-celebrated, and the only comprehensive art collection on Florida’s west coast. With a permanent collection of global antiquities spanning almost 5,000 years, a collection of masterpieces including Monet and O’Keefe to name a few, and a highly respected photography exhibit, there is every reason to step inside. A packed events schedule consists of national and international visiting exhibits, experiential art opportunities for kids and adults, and numerous talks and musical events. The museum extends a community invitation to its beautiful outdoor space, with Thursday Porch Parties and December movies in the park.
The museum space itself beckons you to experience its cool, light atmosphere. There is nowhere else like it in the city. A turn to the right is a turn into history — ornate doorways open up to grand rooms, and a sequence of sculpture gardens provide a tranquil space for respite and reflection. A turn to the left, on the other hand, and your experience is a distinctly modern one: clean, vast spaces, with thoughtful cocoons for the art lover to embrace the quiet and the art before them. Whichever way you turn, once in, you’ll likely stay a long while.
One of our favorite stores in the city is the MFA gift shop. They’ve curated a beautiful selection of hard-to-find gifts, and have managed to find something for everyone. Many pieces are locally made and some support Creative Clay — a local arts initiative to make art accessible to all. Books, jewelry, homewares and curiosities await the discerning gift buyer.
And when the tummy rumbles or your body calls for refreshment, you’ll enjoy the MFA Cafe. Take in the view of the glistening bay from the air conditioned side of the two-story window facade. Now that’s good living.
The St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts is a must-visit. Just make sure you’ve got the time to stay.