The invitation to "Eat Rich, Play Dirty" came from the Morean Arts Center, and nearly 300 patrons showed up for the party at the Historic Train Station for Clay in St. Petersburg.
Tampa Bay area vendors and volunteers supplied the food and drink, and artists and volunteers dished the dirt, inviting guests to create vessels at the potters' wheels. Others shaped their visions for a new St. Petersburg pier, hand-building miniature clay models.
Throughout the evening, clay center manager Valerie Scott Knaust, a true evangelist for the medium, left clay handprints on the willing: Board of trustees treasurer Fred McCoy boasted one on his head, Thaddeus Root wore his as a face mask, and new University of South Florida St. Petersburg chancellor Sophia T. Wisniewska had one imprinted on her clothing, as did many other guests, trusting that their garments could be laundered.
Beth Morean chaired the event, which organizers said raised in the neighborhood of $50,000. Additional committee members included Martin Bimler, Doris Conner, Kally Harvard, Susan Reiter, Pat Sheppard, Sarah Aldrich, Cory Adler and Morean executive director Wayne Atherholt.
Music was by soloist Colton LaMay and the Group Next Door. The St. Pete Clay Company, which shares the train center, opened its space and donated items for the auction.
As you have read elsewhere, the "new" Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, has been rejuvenated with fresh paint, lighting and flooring throughout much of the building. Patrons attending a reception to celebrate the refreshed galleries had nothing but praise for the renovations, commenting on the newly uncovered arched windows that bring more natural light into the building and on the carefully chosen paint colors that make the artwork pop.
The evening included remarks from Kent Lydecker, the museum's director; St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster; and Stephanie Goforth, president of the West Florida Region of Northern Trust, which hosted the evening.
Lydecker praised the staff and singled out chief curator Jennifer Hardin, who led the effort with help from Jeff Daly, an international museum design consultant who was the Metropolitan Museum of Art's chief designer for nearly three decades. And Lydecker gave special recognition to veteran senior art preparator and photographer Thomas Gessler and longtime board member and former president Carol Upham.
Several patrons attending have been supporters throughout the museum's nearly 50-year presence in the community.
Major donors for the $300,000 project include Master Planners James and Suzanne Acheson, Gail and Michael Cannova, Gail and Gary Damkoehler, the Focardi family, Marianne and Mark T. Mahaffey, Mary Joan and Sam Mann Jr., Sam and Lorraine Rahall, Arlene Rothman and Frances and Gus Stavros, plus Bank of America and the state of Florida.
Architect-category donors include the Alvah H. and Wyline P. Chapman Foundation; Michael and Adele Acheson; Lynell and Robert Bell; Kathryn, Kim, James, Daniel and John Cooke; Susan and Mack Hicks; Hazel and William Hough; Mardi Johnson; Glenn and Dav Mosby; Shirley Shirock; Mary Shuh; and Carol Upham.
Contributors in the Designer division are Cathy and Dr. Steve Collins, Hillary Cone, Dr. Gordon Gilbert, Carol and Langston Holland and Joyce and Walter Larson.