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May brings opportunities to get up and go

Just as libraries are no longer simply repositories for books but also places to find talking books, videos, CDs, computers and software, museums have become home to things other than those fascinating wall hangings.

The St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts, on Bayshore Boulevard downtown, offers visitors more than its permanent collection and two visiting exhibitions ("Treasures of the Petit Palais," selections from the period of the French impressionists to post-World War II, through June 28; and "Pre-Columbian Artifacts," through May 31).

For example, on Sunday, from 3 to 5 p.m., Laura Coyle, exhibitions assistant at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, will lecture on "What's Next? Painting After Impressionism," a discussion that ties in with the Petit Palais exhibit. Then, for opera lovers, Dr. Ira Ross will continue his opera classes by discussing Mozart's Marriage of Figaro on two Tuesdays, May 5 and 12, from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. Call 896-2667 for more information on these and other May events.

Two Florida exhibits promise insights into the local art scene. The 10th Annual All-Florida Spring Juried Exhibit will be up through June 5 at the Art Center, 719 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Call 822-7872 for information. And the winners of the Florida Visual Art Fellowship Awards will be on view from May 9 to June 21 at Florida Gulf Coast Art Center, 222 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Belleair. Call 584-8634.

The Florida Orchestra will join forces with some fine vocal talent:

Conducted by Thomas Wilkins and featuring soprano Camellia Johnson, the orchestra will perform three selections by Samuel Barber, one from Beethoven's music for voice, and Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy 8 p.m. May 15 at Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in Tampa; at 8 p.m. May 16 at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg; and at 7:30 p.m. May 17 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.

Then, in a "Tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein," Skitch Henderson will conduct the Florida Orchestra as it accompanies the 120-voice Master Chorale. With Oklahoma, South Pacific, The Sound of Music and other scores to choose from, the halls will ring with beautiful music May 21 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater; May 22 at Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center; and May 23 at Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. All concerts are at 8 p.m. Call 286-2403 or (800) 662-7286 for information and reservations for Florida Orchestra concerts.

A television program that may interest those who enjoyed the Florida International Museum's exhibit on Alexander the Great last year is scheduled for 9 p.m. May 4 and 5 on PBS. (Check local listings for date and time in your area.) In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great follows the young soldier and leader on his march from Greece to Asia. Check the library or bookstore for the accompanying volume by Michael Wood.

I love a mystery when it's well done, with interesting characters and believable situations that teach me a little more about the world. The mystery series, with carry-overs of the main character/detective/police officer/etc., have become all the rage among us cloak-and-dagger fans. There's Sue Grafton's alphabet series with Kinsey Millhone, Dick Francis with Sid Halley, Elizabeth George with her high-born bunch, commoner Sgt. Havers and so many others.

I've just become acquainted with Anne Perry, whose area is Victorian England and who has written 26 mysteries in less than 20 years. She has two separate series going: one with the policeman Thomas Pitt and his wife, Charlotte, born into a much better class than Thomas; the other featuring an ex-policeman, William Monk, who works as an investigative agent and carries on a love-hate relationship with Hester, the well-brought-up middle-class woman who served as a nurse in the Crimea with Florence Nightingale.

Ms. Perry certainly does her homework and manages to infuse her conventional if convoluted plots with fascinating insights into the Victorians' attitudes toward everything from the class system to the Irish problem to Darwinism to pedophilia to women's suffrage. By making these issues a vital part of her mysteries and their solutions, the stories and characters are made richer and more memorable.

Interested in feeding the mind? Registration for summer classes through the University of South Florida (Tampa campus) Senior Citizen Tuition program (that means free, folks!) will be held May 18. Orientation will be held at 10 a.m. in CTR Room 133 for new students, who should bring proof of Florida residency. Directions and parking permits are available at the USF Visitor Reception Center, which is just inside the Fowler Avenue entrance to USF. Florida residents 60 and older may take regular credit classes on a space-available basis. For further information, call 974-2403.

Community colleges usually have these non-tuition spaces available for the over-60s as well. Call or go by the administration office for details at the college nearest you. Eckerd College maintains an active Elderhostel program, as well as a senior college with sites in the north county as well as on the Eckerd campus. Subjects ranging from basic use of computers to ethics to political movements to literature are available at these colleges.

With so many wonderful opportunities to get back into the learning mode, there's no excuse for being bored during our long, hot summer. Get moving for lots of fun and new ideas.

Take note.

_ Write to Mim Anne Houk c/o Seniority, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

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