ST. PETERSBURG — The Chihuly Collection, starring Dale Chihuly's dramatic glass installations, has been a big arts destination since it opened in 2010 on Beach Drive in downtown St. Petersburg.
Soon, it will have a larger draw thanks to help from a Chihuly expert. Reconfigured space has been turned into a new 800-square-foot gallery for special exhibitions and a 2,500-square-foot gift shop.
The gift shop opens April 5 with a wide variety of merchandise ranging from $1 to $8,600. For the grand opening that day, admission to the Chihuly Collection will be $1 rather than the usual $14.95.
The goal, said Andy Schlauch, that expert who became the first executive director of the collection several months ago, "is to generate more revenue and planned events."
The changes will appeal to first-time visitors seeking souvenirs and mementos but should also attract locals. Typically, they return infrequently unless an arts venue has a new attraction such as changing shows. And the gift store, which has a separate entrance on Beach Drive, has added items geared more toward gift-giving that aren't necessarily associated with the glass artist.
The galleries housing the $7 million Chihuly glass collection will remain unchanged, continuing to showcase the international art star's iconic sculptures. The small retail space at the entrance will become the special exhibitions gallery which, for several months, will feature glass vessels by St. Petersburg's Duncan McClellan and works by glass artists with whom he has worked. The admissions area, which occupied space across from the collection and included a small theater to show films about Chihuly, has been gutted. Its walls are lined with horizontal planks of cypress and cedar and display cases are wrapped in stamped tin to emulate Chihuly's famous boathouse near Seattle. Purple accents are a nod to his love of color.
Schlauch is masterminding the changes.
"Many new items will be unique and specific to us," Schlauch said.
He would know.
Schlauch, 35, worked for Chihuly in Seattle for six years before moving to St. Petersburg to oversee the Chihuly Collection, which is owned by the Morean Arts Center.
"Dale is very generous and wanted to help," said Wayne Atherholt, executive director of the Morean. "The Chihuly Collection and the Morean are both doing very well but we wanted to take the collection to the next step. Andy was the perfect person because nobody knows Dale Chihuly like Andy. He basically gave us Andy." (Not literally: He's an employee of and paid by the Morean but was suggested by Chihuly for the job.)
Though he has a degree in art history, Schlauch has mostly worked on the business side of arts organizations. For Chihuly, he was the liaison with galleries selling the artist's work and oversaw gallery exhibitions and worked with collectors. He managed sales and distribution. He advised on public relations, catalogs and displays. The new job is like a microcosm of the former one.
The popular, Chihuly-branded items sold in the old, smaller space — from a $7.95 magnet to the $100 coffee-table books — will be there along with T-shirts, hats and pens that reference the Chihuly Collection specifically. The limited editions of Chihuly's work will continue to debut four times a year and cost between $4,600 and $8,600.
Schlauch has also contracted with regional fine craft artists so the store will have a larger, more diverse inventory with jewelry, artisanal soap and ceramics, for example.
Lennie Bennett can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8293.