Fine art lovers intending to visit the new Salvador Dalí Museum this weekend will discover the Grand Prix Fixe is in. Art patrons will have to navigate their way through thousands of spectators jamming the streets of St. Petersburg for the seventh annual Honda Grand Prix. And — because the new museum sits smack in the middle of the race course — they will be forced to pay a premium: Not just $21 for museum admission but also $10 to $40 for a general admission race ticket, depending on which day they attend.
This seems like a double clutch of avarice. Somewhere the late, great artist must be bemused at the juxtaposition of surrealism and checkered flags — two of this community's best economic drivers — forced into an awkward marriage. Arts patrons will be forced to park at Tropicana Field, then share the shuttle with race fans to even get close to the museum. And no one is sure what their experience inside the museum will be like as cars roar by at 130 decibels.
For residents who may not share a passion for auto racing, this Dalí road race challenge is just one more example of the logistical inconveniences the annual race has come to force on downtown and nearby neighborhoods. First, roads needed to access waterfront amenities are closed for weeks, and then the actual weekend is filled with the relentless roar of racing machines. But that is a narrow view of a successful event that brings nearly 150,000 to St. Petersburg's downtown, spending an average of $120 a day.
Far more instructive is the public posture taken by the museum's leaders, who are clearly aware that the community has sacrificed by providing tax dollars to help build the new facility. They have embraced the race as a potential opportunity to introduce more people to Dalí. That is helpful. But they also deserve, after this weekend, to revisit the issue with race officials and consider how next year's events might change to facilitate both the sporting public and Dalí devotees. There has got to be a better approach to accommodate both the Grand Prix and the Dalí, which in their own ways add so much to the rich life of St. Petersburg.