Another museum is joining the mix in St. Petersburg's downtown Central Arts District.
The St. Pete Sculpture Museum has signed a lease on a 3,200-square-foot space in the same Central Avenue building that's now home to the Chihuly Collection, sculptor Jon Hair said.
Hair opened his museum and sculpting studio at 290 Dr. MLK Jr. St. N in late 2016, but said he's hoping the new location at the corner of 8th Street and Central Avenue across from the Morean Arts Center will boost the museum's profile.
"It's exciting, it's unusual, and there's nothing like it in the country, because you get to see how sculptures are made," Hair said. "We're just not getting the traffic right now because we're too far off Central."
The museum's current location is in the Fringe District where its home to around 200 of Hair's bronze sculptures and original clay masters, including a 9-foot-tall Neil Armstrong, several U.S. presidents, galloping horses and a 26-foot-long lion.
"You can see bronzes anywhere, but you never see the original clay master sculptures, which are the part that's actually shaped by the artists's hand," Hair said.
Hair plans to begin moving into the new space in October and be open by Christmas. He hopes to use the higher ceilings to display his art with more dramatic effect.
Hair is an award-winning sculptor with more than 100 commissions completed over the past 12 years, including work for U.S. Olympic Committee, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and dozens of universities across the country.
He's currently working on what he said is the largest college mascot sculpture in the country, a massive, bronze gamecock going up at the University of South Carolina.
He grew up in St. Petersburg, but left as a teenager and returned to the city last year when he opened the museum.
Just five blocks east at 100 Central Avenue, the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art is set open in early 2018. Its 30,000 square feet of gallery space will house around 400 pieces from philanthropists Tom and Mary James' extensive art collection.
"I think when the sculpture museum and the Tom James museum opens it will help everyone," said Roger Ross, chief financial officer for the Morean Arts Center, which owns and operates the Chihuly Collection. "St. Pete has become a big destination for museums now, people can spend a couple days here seeing them all."