With the groundbreaking for the first phase of expanding the Beth Morean Arts Center accomplished, Arts Center officials and friends celebrated with glass maestro Dale Chihuly at a dinner hosted by Drs. Edward Zbella and Lisa Nemec.
The backdrop was a nighttime view of Tampa Bay from the fourth floor of 400 Beach Drive, and Chihuly gave guests a summary of the many projects he is undertaking throughout the world, among them large installations in Dubai, Kuwait, Singapore and Las Vegas.
In St. Petersburg, his sculptures will fill about half the new space, and the permanent collection will be one of a kind.
"I promise you," Chihuly told the group of about 70 guests, "when it comes to your Chihuly collection, I'm going to make you the best project I've ever done."
Arts Center board of trustees chairman Terry Brett recalled a visit to the Seattle area earlier this year to visit Chihuly and other artists. Brett, Arts Center executive director Evelyn Craft, Zbella and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker were in the delegation.
"We were treated like family," Brett said.
Baker, whose trademark greeting is "It's a great day in St. Petersburg," said the city has much to celebrate. "This is not just a museum," he said at the private dinner event. "This is an industry."
And then, having celebrated the Tampa Bay Rays' advancing into the American League Division Series, Baker brought souvenir baseball caps for the artist and every other person attending the event. It was catered by Parkshore Grill.
Beth Ann Morean, who gave the lead gift for the Arts Center expansion, was there. Jimmy Aviram, a developer and longtime acquaintance of Chihuly's who is credited with inspiring the partnership, attended with his wife, Haia. Also in the group were Marshall Rousseau, director of the Chihuly Collection; Dick Jacobs, board chairman emeritus; Tom and Mary James; capital campaign director Katee Tully, with Helen Levine; Lenne Nicklaus-Ball; Barbara Sansone and Terry Collins; Dr. Mary Ann Pittman and Steven Boldt; Mirella and Norman Smith; Karen and Jim Holbrook; and Emily and Dr. Fred Gurtman.
The expanded Arts Center, which also will contain a hot shop for glass artists, is scheduled to open in 2010.