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Arts collector plans 90,000-square foot museum for downtown St. Pete

The arts and crafts museum is planned for 333 Third Ave. N.
Published Nov. 7, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG — Against the backdrop of craftsman homes in the historic neighborhoods of Kenwood, Roser Park and the Old Northeast, an enthusiast of the arts and crafts movement has chosen St. Petersburg to build a museum to house his $60 million collection from the period.

Rudy Ciccarello plans to establish his Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement at 333 Third Ave. N, in the city's downtown. The 90,000-square foot, four-story facility will include galleries, a cafe, restaurant, store and studios.

The museum will be the permanent home of Ciccarello's 1,200 pieces that include furniture, pottery and tiles from a period that ran from about 1900 to 1920.

"It's a great collection and it will draw people from all over the country," said Jeff Schorr, who spent more than two years restoring the bungalow that's home to his Craftsman House, a combination gallery, cafe and studio on Central Avenue.

"Having a museum of this caliber in St. Petersburg would only add to the city's growing reputation as a top arts and tourism destination," Elizabeth Brincklow, manager of the city's office of arts and international relations, said. "While St. Petersburg is well represented in the fine arts world, the addition of a major museum showcasing the arts and crafts movement would be a major coup for the city's arts community."

Ciccarello, 67, had once set his sights on Tampa, hoping to build a museum and upscale restaurant at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. He broke off negotiations about a year ago when he couldn't get a five-year commitment of financial support from City Hall.

Ciccarello said he wanted the museum in the Tampa Bay area and determined that St. Petersburg was an ideal location.

"One chief reason is that for the past three years, St. Petersburg has been in the top spot as the number one arts destination in the U.S. among mid-sized cities," he wrote in an email.

The new museum will be designed by Tampa architect Alberto Alfonso, who also designed the space for the Chihuly Collection in St. Petersburg. The site is being bought from Synovus Bank, which will be its neighbor. The museum's architecture will not be reminiscent of the arts and crafts movement.

"Our position on this is that this is a building that is a container for art, and I think there are many models of museums around the world that hold collections that do not mimic the art that is held in them," Alfonso said. "We wanted to do a strong building of our time and not get stuck in stylistic trappings."

Construction costs will be "in excess of" $35 million, Ciccarello said, who added he is prepared to support the endeavor financially.

"However, I hope to attract grants and donations to develop a state-of-the-art audio/visual educational system, as well as the construction of workshops dedicated to the learning and practice of various crafts, including pottery, woodblocks and photography," he said. "Support will also be sought to create several educational and entertainment programs for area children."

In 2004, Ciccarello, the founder of Florida Infusion Services, a distributor of drugs and medical supplies, established a foundation focused on the arts and crafts movement. The Two Red Roses Foundation is described as a nonprofit, educational institution "dedicated to the acquisition, restoration, and public exhibition of important examples" from the movement. The collection he has endowed the museum "is considered by experts in the field to be the most extensive in America," Ciccarello said.

The project is expected to go before the city's development review commission in December. The museum is projected to be complete by 2016.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283.

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