ST. PETERSBURG — Jane Roberts first heard of Salvador Dalí in the middle of the last century. She had graduated from a small college in Pennsylvania with a degree in art and was teaching a class in New York City. Dalí, at the time, was an internationally known star of the art world, at least in part because of his antics and eccentricities.
"He was, always, as we know, craving notoriety," Roberts said. "I just thought, 'Ho hum, another nut.' "
She moved with her husband and children to South Florida in the mid 1950s and to St. Petersburg nearly 20 years after that. And not until her itch for the arts led her to call the Salvador Dalí Museum staff, asking if they needed a volunteer, did her perspective of him change.
On Saturday, the museum presented a documentary that tells the stories of six of its most faithful supporters. Museum staff teamed with Suncoast Hospice and the TASCO Center for Teen Technology to interview the subjects, including Roberts, and produce the film.
For a few brief moments before the debut, Roberts sat on the museum's first floor and reminisced about her relationship with the organization over the past 30 years. A wrapped red rose, which matched her lipstick, lay on the table in front of her. She wore black pants and a multicolored blouse and around her neck hung a necklace with a dollar-sized medallion that depicts Dalí's famous melting clocks. The piece of jewelry signified her membership in the Order of Salvador, a group that recognizes supporters.
Her involvement with the museum began in the gift shop, but she spent most of her years in the library, where she researched the archives. She has also given tours since the early 1980s and was named volunteer of the year in 1992.
Roberts eventually learned to appreciate the nuance in Dalí's paintings. She understood their deeper meanings and saw the artist as something much more than a provocateur.
And her favorite painting?
"The one with the funny, unpronounceable name," she said. Its title, Galacidalacidesoxyribonucleicacid, is easier to type. Roberts likes the science that influenced its creation.
Her inclusion in the documentary, she said, was special.
"Digging up memories," she said. "That was really fun."
As a woman approached the table to escort her to the film's debut, Roberts declined to reveal her age. She never does.
"I don't want to be a number," she said. "I'm convinced that once you get old, all people want to talk about is how old you are."
"I can tell you," she continued, "that this museum keeps you young."