Declaring the plans "look fabulous,'' internationally famous glass sculptor Dale Chihuly on Tuesday confirmed his commitment to a new St. Petersburg museum for his colorful glass sculptures.
Attending the contract-signing ceremony in Seattle, where Chihuly lives, were St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker and officials from St. Petersburg's Arts Center, which is planning an expansion that will include the 32,000-square-foot Chihuly Collection, the first museum of its kind in the world.
Construction is scheduled to begin in September, with completion slated for early 2010, said Arts Center executive director Evelyn Craft.
The new contract was needed because the original plan to include the museum as part of a condominium project was jettisoned due to the real estate slowdown.
"St. Petersburg already has some great cultural spots, and we hope to add another to the list. You're going to be the proud owner of the largest Chihuly collection anywhere in the world,'' the artist said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Baker said he didn't hesitate when Arts Center officials invited him to Seattle to complete the contract.
"You have very few opportunities to bring home one of the world's great collections, to be the premiere city in the world for it,'' Baker said. "It's that important that when I was asked to show the city's commitment, I cleared the calendar.''
Chihuly said he plans to spend more time in the city when construction is completed, installing the collection and participating in educational programs, particularly for children.
But will Chihuly buy a home here?
"Maybe, that's a possibility. I don't have a place in a warm climate. I might get to feeling that's a good idea.''