Just off Beach Drive, resting on the corner of Central Avenue and First Avenue South, is a well-known landmark. This towering pink structure is not a location you would historically expect to find a cultural hotspot. In fact, the top floors are a city parking garage, and the bottom were the former offices of an insurance agency. Thanks to St. Petersburg visionaries Tom and Nancy James, the first two floors of this iconic building are in the midst of a transformation. They will soon be the home of St. Petersburg’s newest destination: the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art. The concept is one of the first of its kind in St. Pete, taking an underutilized structure and revitalizing the space to include 30,000-square-feet of gallery space, a 6,000-square feet event space, a theater, sculpture court, kitchen, café, and store.
Tom James, the former CEO and chairman emeritus of the board of Raymond James Financial, is a titan in the St. Petersburg community. For years, visitors to the Raymond James offices have called it a museum because of the massive collection of the James’ private art on display there. Now, James is building a more traditional outlet to display his art – a museum.
James began collecting art while a student, and found himself captivated by the Frontier and the ideals, landscapes, and wildlife of the American West. He and his wife Mary have continued to collect together over the last 50 years, working to support living artists in their ventures. The couple set out to create the James Museum as their personal gift to the St. Petersburg Community, where they have lived and worked for over 50 years. Featuring 500 pieces of their private 3000-piece collection, the James Museum is set to open in early 2018.
Alongside Beach Drive’s Museum of Fine Arts and Salvador Dali Museum, as well as Central Avenue’s Chihuly Collection, The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art will be yet another cultural anchor in city of St. Petersburg for locals and visitors alike. The Jameses have high hopes for the museum, after gifting nearly $50 million to see it come to fruition, they hope to see it thrive in the St. Petersburg community, and instill the values they were so moved by during their collecting – “action, fortitude, heritage, and integrity.”
Visit the James Museum’s website here.