ST. PETERSBURG — We have heard the buzz for months about a move for the Chihuly Collection.
Now, it's official: The museum-like gallery of works by superstar glass artist Dale Chihuly plans to move from its 400 Beach Drive NE location to the 700 block of Central Avenue, across the street from the Morean Arts Center, which owns the collection. The anticipated date for the opening is fall 2016.
A news conference is scheduled at 2 p.m. today at the Morean, 722 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, for the official announcement.
"This is a positive step for the Chihuly and the Morean," said Andy Schlauch, executive director of the Chihuly Collection. "It helps create a more unified campus (closer to the Morean's hot shop, for example) and increase traffic. The parking will be easier, much easier for the tour buses. And we'll be part of the redevelopment of the Central Avenue area."
The new space will occupy 11,000 square feet of the first floor of a building under construction that also will house a Publix supermarket and three upper decks of parking.
The Chihuly Collection's current home has 9,800 square feet. It contains all of the artist's signature works: Chandeliers, Mille Fiore, Persian Ceiling and Float Boat, installations with hundreds of individual components, plus more individual sculptures and vessels. They're arranged in a beautiful space designed by Tampa architect Albert Alphonso to enhance the glass. The large sculpture of pink cubes, known to locals as "rock candy," marks the entrance on Beach Drive and will continue to do so on Central Avenue.
All the art will be part of the new location "and we're repurposing as much as we can with the galleries," Schlauch said. "We'll have more inside space, 11,000 square feet plus 4,000 square feet of outdoor space that we can use for events — weddings and parties."
The Chihuly Collection will pay about the same monthly rent, which currently is about $30,000, a discount compared to other commercial space on Beach Drive, Schlauch said. Admission rates are expected to remain the same.
"We have been happy to have had them for five years," said John Hamilton Jr. of the Hamilton Partnership, the family group that owns the Beach Drive space. "We don't really know yet what we're looking for. What do I put there that's comparable to Chihuly when Chihuly is pretty much incomparable?"
Hamilton said it could be divided into up to four separate spaces. "We'd like to keep it local," he said. "There's time; it's a year away, and I have no doubt we can bring something that's good for the city."
Schlauch said the gift store will be part of the new location and the theater, which was eliminated to make room for larger store space, will return. There will still be space dedicated to changing exhibitions by other glass artists.
The Chihuly Collection will be closed beginning in late summer for about six weeks, "our slowest time of year," he said, before a grand reopening.
"The city's very fortunate to have it (the Chihuly Collection) even if we won't," Hamilton said. "I'm fine with replacing them, but we'll miss them."
Contact Lennie Bennett at [email protected] or (727) 893-8293.