ST. PETERSBURG - The arrival of the Chihuly Collection in downtown St. Petersburg could spark a new local industry: Glass art. Tampa artist Duncan McClellan is already building a new studio near downtown."The city of St. Pete gets it," McClellan says. "They realize that art makes money."
McClellan credits city officials with going out of their way to make his move successful.
"My project will impact," he claims. "Every dollar I spend will bring seven back to the community, so it's a really good bang for the buck."
The Morean Arts Center opens its 10,000 square foot "Chihuly Collection" the Fourth of July weekend. That is about the same time it will open a "hot shop" on Central Avenue. That will provide a facility where working artists and students will share expensive equipment.
Visitors will be able to watch daily exhibitions of artists working with hot glass.
"We're basically just starting this whole industry here," says glass artists Owen Patch.
Patch is designing and building the hot shop, which will include seating for at least 60 spectators.
"There's no place else like this in the southeast," Owen says. "This will be truly unique."
The St. Petersburg Clay Company provides an example of successfully growing a local arts community. It started as three or four potters wanting to share the costs of a pottery studio. The Clay Company moved into an historic railroad freight depot and now houses three separate businesses.
The original potters rent space to 30 or 40 other potters, the Morean Arts Center offers classes and another company sells the necessary tools and materials.
Some of the former students are now art professors or full-time artists.
"We have spawned quite a few businesses," co-owner Charlie Parker says.