Travel

The Arts and Crafts movement of the late 1800s to early 20th century arose when artists began producing hand-crafted items, sometimes with nature in mind, in response to the rise of mass-produced goods. The movement began in England but quickly spread to the United States, including to New Orleans and those teaching artists at H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, now part of Tulane University. Newcomb Pottery was produced from 1895 to 1940 and about 90 Newcomb graduates achieved employment through this art with about 70,000 pieces created. 

Florida businessman Rudy Ciccarello began collecting Arts and Crafts pieces, including Newcomb pottery, and amassed one of the largest in the world. 

“I became a passionate student of the movement, purchasing items for my personal collection,” he said. “The collection expanded to include more than 200 works of furniture, pottery, tiles, lighting, metal, photography, prints, fine art, and books, and needed to be shared.”

Ciccarello established the Two Red Roses Foundation in 2004, a non-profit educational foundation dedicated to preserving the collection and sharing its pieces with the public. Last fall, the Foundation opened the Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement (MAACM) in St. Petersburg, Florida, the only museum in the world dedicated solely to the American Arts and Crafts Movement. 

It’s an astonishing building with a grand atrium and curving staircase designed by award-winning Tampa architect Alberto Alfonso. Galleries are filled with items from Ciccarello’s collection and others, more than 2,000 works of art. The museum also includes an Arts Café, library and studios.

And there’s more

St. Petersburg, Florida, is home to several outstanding museums, including the renowned Salvador Dali Museum, which began the city’s cultural renaissance. In addition to the surrealist’s collection housed inside an equally impressive building, there’s the James Museum of Western + Wildlife Art featuring more than 500 works of western-related art, the Museum of Fine Arts with its magnificent kapok tree, and many more. One not to be missed is the Morean Arts Center, where visitors may enjoy the exhibit galleries, the vibrant Chihuly Collection and glassblowing demonstrations at the Morean Glass Studio.

Stay

The Cordova Inn in the heart of downtown, easily accessible to museums, the waterfront and the new St. Petersburg Pier, offers boutique accommodations with modern amenities. There are plenty of ways to relax, from the porch rocking chairs to the comfy chairs in the lobby seating area and well-stocked library. If not for the hip bar serving up cocktails, and craft coffees in the morning, visitors would swear they had landed in Old Florida. Plans are to expand the hotel but we hope that special ambiance remains the same.

For a more upscale experience, but equally historic, the Vinoy Renaissance at the waterfront offers a glimpse into the Florida of the 1920s. This expansive property dates to 1926, when the Vinoy Park Hotel opened with 375 rooms, easily becoming a hot spot for snow birds during Florida’s “Boom Era.”

Dining

Begin with drinks at The Vinoy’s Lobby Bar and enjoy unique craft cocktails in the elegantly decorated lobby alcoves or on the veranda patio. Restaurants run the gamut along the nearby waterfront streets, from quick bites to fine dining. 

A nice stroll on the new St. Petersburg Pier takes visitors to several eateries, all sporting beautiful views. Options run from Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, one of a chain of Caribbean-styled restaurants started by author Randy Wayne White, to the more upscale Teak with its wide windows offering stunning views of downtown St. Pete. In either case, be sure to look for dolphins.