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When art's the goal

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[Times photos: Jamie Francis]
The museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg.

By MARY ANN MARGER

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 25, 2001


A special day for museums and galleries in St. Petersburg, plus exhibits in Tampa and Sarasota, offer Super Bowl fans plenty to see away from the game.

Think of the possibilities. From any seat in Raymond James Stadium, seven art museums are within a one-hour drive.

None, of course, are open Sunday night, so no matter how badly your team is losing, you can't scoot on over to soothe your soul with the couth of culture.

But between now and kickoff, there's plenty of time to discover how the Tampa Bay area has been rising in the arts, as well as in sports. Since Tampa first hosted a Super Bowl in 1986, the Polk Museum of Art (Lakeland), the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum (Tampa) and the Gulf Coast Museum of Art (Largo) have all become realities. Not left behind at all, the Salvador Dali Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts (both in St. Petersburg) and the Tampa Museum of Art (Tampa) have all undergone major expansions, and the Ringling Museum (Sarasota) has renovated in a manner that reclaims its original majesty.

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Praying Boy was sculpted by Boedas and is on display at St. Petersburg’s Museum of Fine Arts, which also is offering a special exhibit of sports photographs by Harold Edgerton this weekend.

Where you go depends on what you like. Here are just a few recommendations; you'll find many more ideas and details in our gallery and museum listings:

The Dali claims the world's largest collection of Salvador Dali's surrealism. On view now is a two-part show, one of prized works arranged by genre, the other telling the story, through photos and art, of the long and unusual relationship between the Dalis and the museum's founders.

The Ringling has a renowned collection of baroque art acquired by circus impresario John Ringling (a museum of circus memorabilia is also on the premises). Now at the Ringling is "The Gilded Age," on tour from the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

The Tampa Museum of Art's collection of classical antiquities is considered the best in the Southeast. Closing Sunday is "Transatlantic Dialogues," African and African-American artists who have drawn on each other for influence, and, for those who can't wait for kickoff, there is a gallery of some of the NFL's most memorable photographs.

St. Petersburg's Arts on the Ball, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, gives downtown's many galleries, museums and shops the chance to show off. Participants include the Museum of Fine Arts, which is offering a special exhibit of sports photographs by Harold Edgerton; the Dali, the Florida Holocaust Museum, the Florida International Museum with its current exhibit on John F. Kennedy and the Cold War era; the Great Explorations hands-on museum for children, plus music in outdoor and indoor locations all day. You'll get two-for-one admissions and discounts at museum stores and discounts at art center shops. Pick up a brochure at any of the participating museums or galleries; show the brochure for a free Looper trolley ride to the various venues. Most activity in this Super Bowl-sanctioned event centers around two areas: Gallery Central, along Central Avenue between Second and Eighth streets, and Beach Drive and the Pier, Beach Drive and points east along Second Avenue NE. (See the area map in the middle of Weekend for directions and parking.)

Sunday is the last day for this year's annual International Miniature Art Show at the Belleview Biltmore Resort and Spa in Belleair.

Year-round, visitors and residents enjoy weekend gallery walks -- monthly in St. Petersburg and Gulfport, less often in Tampa. The Dunedin Fine Art Center in Dunedin as well as other centers, galleries and college venues round out the area's ongoing offerings. Florida is a favorite state for outdoor show artists; biggest locally is the Gasparilla Arts Festival, held the first weekend in March when the weather is more dependable than in January. Graphicstudio on Tampa's USF campus has a national reputation for editionable art.

So whichever direction you head for the bay area art scene, nobody loses. Make it your goal to go.

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