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North America » United States » Florida » St Petersburg
March 24th 2011
Published: January 14th 2012
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St. PetersburgSt. PetersburgSt. Petersburg

Modern art and modern architecture across from the waterfront park
St. Petersburg likes to call itself the Sunshine City.

It gets quite a lot.

In 1910, the St. Petersburg Evening Independent newspaper instituted a famous offer that the paper would be free if it rained that day.

In their seventy six years of publishing, they had to make good on the offer 296 times, less than once every three months!

For obvious reasons, this city has attracted tourists since it was founded.


St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Art



St. Petersburg is also known as an arts destination.

It has a large number of galleries.

It also has two of the better art museums in Florida.

These museums were my first targets for the day.

The St. Petersburg Museum Of Fine Art was founded in 1918.

It’s located in a beautiful Neo-Classical building in a city park directly on the waterfront.

The museum is small and comprehensive.

This means that it has very little work from any particular era.

I tend to dislike regional museums for this reason.

Most of the older work is by lesser names, although there are three beautiful Monets.

The place where it shines, in my opinion, is contemporary art.
Outside of Salvadore Dali MuseumOutside of Salvadore Dali MuseumOutside of Salvadore Dali Museum

One wall of the Salvadore Dali Museum in St. Petersburg Florida.

The museum has more than most comprehensive museums, including a room of art by Florida artists.

The highlight is a lenticular work done on a computer, a medium rarely seen in museums.

The image changes as people move around in front, which often leads to kitsch.

In this case, the central image is an explosion, with the background resolving into different works from art history.

The explosion remains pointing at the viewer as they move.


Salvador Dali Museum



The other major art museum is on Salvador Dali.

Charles Morse was a lifetime collector of Dali art, and a St. Petersburg resident.

He opened the museum just before his death.

The museum is now located in a wildly sculpted new building that is very surrealistic.

The lounge on the top floor has a spectacular view of Tampa Bay.

The museum has work from Dali’s entire career, so it provides a comprehensive overview.

The admission charge is high, so it’s only worth it if one either loves contemporary art in general or surrealism in particular.





Salvador Dali trained in Spain in a very classical manner.

His senior year, he was kicked out
St. Petersburg Waterfront ParkSt. Petersburg Waterfront ParkSt. Petersburg Waterfront Park

A tiny portion of St. Petersburg Waterfront Park, next to the history museum
of art school, establishing a reputation as a rebel that he never lost.

His earliest work is in an academic realism vein, but he soon turned to cubism.

This phase lasted until he read work by Freud.

He quickly decided to make work from the unconscious.

This led him to fellow Spaniard Juan Miro, who introduced him to the formal Surrealism movement.

Dali excelled at creating work filled with warped and distorted imagery, and all sorts of visual puns.

The Surrealists quickly accepted him.





Before long, his work was the most well known of the entire movement.

He created the image of melting watches during this time (a visage inspired by wax melting in the sun, he claimed) which are now famous to the point of cliché.

This fame caused tension.

Many of the Surrealists had Communist leanings, and wanted their work celebrated as products of the movement as a whole rather than particular painters.

Eventually, the founder of the movement had a trial of Dali and kicked him out.

Dali continued to paint surrealist inspired work after this.





The final phase of
The last green benchThe last green benchThe last green bench

The last suviving example of benches that were once placed throughout St. Petersburg. The elderly used them to rest while strolling downtown. The newspaper is the Evening Independent.
his career was a rebellion against post-war abstraction.

He created paintings filled with recognizable imagery still based on surrealist roots.

Many of them are filled with personal religious iconography.

Dali felt that modern science was discovering the basis of reality, and art should do the same for religion.

He produced a series of large canvases during this time that he called his Masterpieces.

The museum owns a number of them.

The most famous is 'The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus', a painting depicting Christopher Columbus as a Catholic crusader, bringing the light to new lands.





The museum contains works from all phases of Dali’s career.

Some paintings have labels that try to explain the symbolism, which is often highly personal.

Personally, I found it a good place to spend a few hours.


St. Petersburg Museum of History



The final museum I saw was the St. Petersburg Museum of History, which tells the story of the city.

The museum is small and quirky.

The first part tells the story of the city’s founding.

It happened due to the political manipulation of a railroad.

In the early days, one Hamilton Disston
First scheduled air serviceFirst scheduled air serviceFirst scheduled air service

Copy of the float plane that flew between Tampa and St. Petersburg, technically the world's first commercial airline.
owned the land around what is now Gulfport.

Another, John Williams, owned the land around what is now St. Petersburg.

Both were trying to lure the Orange Belt Railroad, the first one on Florida’s west coast, to their area to establish a port.

The railroad needed financing.

When the owner, Peter Demens, asked the owners of the two parcels for funds, the owner of what is now Gulfport refused, and the railroad went to the site of St. Petersburg.

The city started growing soon afterward.





The second part is about tourism.

St. Petersburg has been a tourist site basically since it was founded.

The display has old brochures, bathing suits, and pictures of hotels.

In the early days, city planners battled over whether the waterfront should be used as a port for business or a public park for tourists.

In the end, they split the difference, and the park is still one of the most popular in the area.

The display also has a Green Bench.

In the 1960s, St. Petersburg was such a destination for retirees that these benches were placed along the streets so the elderly could
Indycar in the Parade of StatesIndycar in the Parade of StatesIndycar in the Parade of States

Indycar in the Parade of States, held in St. Petersburg two days before the race.
rest as they walked.





One large room is dedicated to early flight.

The reason it exists is that St. Petersburg is technically where the commercial airline was born.

In 1913, it took almost six hours to get from St. Petersburg to Tampa.

Tony Jannus figured he could use the new invention of the airplane to change that.

He started flying businessmen across the bay in a floatplane, which took about twenty minutes.

He was successful for a while.

Ironically, when better planes allowed the creation of true intercity airlines in the 1920s, they bypassed St. Petersburg for a decade.





The best part of the museum for me was a show of paintings by the Florida Highwaymen.

They were a loosely affiliated group of African-American painters who created Florida nature scenes mainly in the 1970s.

They sold their paintings along the highways to tourists, hence their name.

Their paintings are now rather hard to find.

The art is highly reminiscent of other folk art, and pictures Florida as a romantic dreamscape (which it really can be).


Festival of States Parade



Since
The SungoddessThe SungoddessThe Sungoddess

It wouldn't be a southern festival without a beauty pagent queen, and here she is.
I had to put up with the negatives of being in St. Petersburg during a festival, I figured I should enjoy some of the benefits.

I’m not a big fan of Indycar, but there were other things going on.

The main item was a parade called the Festival of States.

I’m not sure where the name comes from since it had nothing to do with states in the US.





The parade was held near sunset and lasted for two hours.

It featured some unusual participants.

First were different drivers from the various series that were participating in the race.

None of them were major names.

One drove an actual Indy Car through the streets.

It wouldn’t be a Southern parade without some beauty queens, and this parade had four: Miss Florida (in a Cinderella carriage), Miss Sungoddes and her court, Miss Junior Sungoddess and her court, and Miss St. Petersburg.

For some reason, Miss Tampa wasn’t invited (it helps to know that St. Petersburg and Tampa have a deep rivalry).

There were also multiple Mardi-Gras style floats run by such groups as the Krewe of
Krewe floatKrewe floatKrewe float

One of several floats created by private groups for the parade
DeSoto.

A number of high school bands and community service groups rounded out the procession.







(LATE UPDATE)

Someone posted video. Recommend skipping over the intro.





After the parade there was a fireworks display over the harbor.

For those used to the big displays on July 4th, this one was a little disappointing.

They shot single fireworks one after the other.

Only two times did they send up multiple at once, and this was the best part of the show.

After the fireworks, there was a concert by a rock band.

They played cover tunes, mostly from the 1960s.

While the music was nice, their real contribution was to spread out the exodus after the parade.

When people leave gradually, the roads are clearer and move faster.

I encountered no traffic getting out.

The Boston Pops July 4th organizers should look into this.


Additional photos below
Photos: 29, Displayed: 28


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Parade of States FireworksParade of States Fireworks
Parade of States Fireworks

The finalle of the Parade of States fireworks, St. Petersburg Florida. This was the best part of the show.
Ponce De Leon Hotel LobbyPonce De Leon Hotel Lobby
Ponce De Leon Hotel Lobby

The lobby is a classic example of Tropical Moderne architecture
St. Petersburg manhole coverSt. Petersburg manhole cover
St. Petersburg manhole cover

The famously colorful manhole covers of St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg from the Dali MuseumSt. Petersburg from the Dali Museum
St. Petersburg from the Dali Museum

View of downtown St. Petersburg from inside the Dali Museum. The fence in the middle distance marks the course for the Indycar race that weekend.
Public artPublic art
Public art

Sculptures in downtown St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg early historySt. Petersburg early history
St. Petersburg early history

Artifacts from the early days of St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg early daysSt. Petersburg early days
St. Petersburg early days

Artifacts from the early days of St. Petersburg as a beach resort
World War IIWorld War II
World War II

Artifacts from the Second World War and St. Petersburg
Antique race carsAntique race cars
Antique race cars

Early open wheel race cars, in town for the Indycar race
Honor GuardHonor Guard
Honor Guard

Start of the Parade of the States


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