If you already read my gushing love letter to St. Pete, Florida, you know that one of the things I loved most was the city’s vibrant museum and gallery scene. The city is bursting with the work of true creative geniuses, hailing from around the block to around the world.
Many cities have impressive art collections. But what’s really unique about St. Pete is that you don’t ever have to step foot inside a gallery to admire a thought-provoking, fun, or photogenic piece of art — you’ll probably just drive by one, or spot one out of the corner of your eye when you walk by an industrial alley.
St. Pete has one of the best street art collections I’ve ever seen. And I’ve sure looked! I’ve admired street art in far flung places like Brazil and Malaysia, but still found myself fully captivated by the Central Arts District Walking Tour by Florida CraftArt.
I invited my aunts, who live in nearby Tampa and Clearwater, to join me for this Saturday morning adventure. We arrived early to the CraftArt Gallery to check in, and I was so glad we did — the local artwork in the gallery where the tour begins and ends was fun and fresh, and there were plenty of affordable gifts and pieces or art produced right in the Sunshine State to peruse.
When we set off, I was surprised to see that there were at least a dozen others on the tour — reservations are definitely essential! I was also tickled to learn our tour guide was quite the expert — we were being led by none other than Diane Shelly, who previously served as the Executive Director of Florida CraftArt and was a driving force behind kicking off St. Pete’s inaugural SHINE Mural Festival in 2015.
Two editions of SHINE have left the city cloaked in color, a creative event that attracted artists from around the world to come turn St. Pete’s blank walls into urban canvasses. Block parties, bike tours, and illustration battles were all on the events list — I’m definitely keeping my eyes peeled for the third edition!
For the next ninety minutes, Diane led us around the Central Arts District, taking in more than thirty murals in just four short blocks. Some were serious, some were silly, some were colorful, some were black and white.
One piece that really captivated the crowd was an underwater-inspired piece known as the “Woomorial,” a tribute by several local artists to one of their own, Bill “Woo” Correira, who died in 2012 in his gallery on the very block where the mural is painted.
I swooned over the sweetly painted dumpsters, and the coral in the bottom corner of the mural made up by handprints from the local community.
Another favorite? This small and discreet piece Only a Paper Moon by Rebekah Lazardis, and the bright and bold You Are My Sunshine by Jeffrey Sincich and Josh Stover, celebrating local love for The Sunshine City.
I couldn’t resist the bold colors and great backstory of Mr. Sun, an advertising character created to promote the city of St. Pete in the 1940’s, and recreated by artist Chad Mize and Nicholas Kekllas. My aunts also loved this taste of old Florida history!
Look closely — can you see how this piece spells out and celebrates both the city of St. Pete and neighboring Tampa?
I really appreciated the backstory Diane provided on the pieces, the artists who created them, and the work that various groups are doing to keep the art scene of St. Pete thriving.
Attempts to profit off murals created by others are not without enormous controversy, but CraftArt is doing it right — with the artists’s blessings and support, and with the profits going back to the work. A portion of the proceeds of all tours goes to funding future murals, so kudos for keeping the art alive!
Tour are run every Saturday morning from 10-11:30am. The tour is $19 for adults, $11 for children and free for kiddos under $5. Private tours can be arranged at other times, so don’t be afraid to call if you’re visiting mid-week and super keen to soak up the knowledge.
The Central Arts District really is the most perfect place to spend a Saturday. Once you’ve wrapped up the walking tour, you’re just steps away from the Chihuly Collection and the Morean Arts Center and so many amazing lunch spots. You might luck out and be there on an Indie Market Saturday! If you’re in town the second Saturday of the month, stick around for the St. Pete Art Walk.
I took the mural tour on my very first day in St. Pete, which left me plenty of time to discover others in my next few days of wandering. Diane had given us much-appreciated directions to a few that weren’t on the tour, but most I just stumbled upon.
The standouts? Anything that celebrated St. Pete and Florida themes like gators, living local and the state’s famous produce. And you know I couldn’t resist a Wonderland mural!
The craziest part of all of this? I saw literally just a fraction of St. Pete’s amazing murals! It’s already pretty obvious I’ll be back to St. Pete — I can’t wait to see what art I stumble upon when I do.
What’s your favorite city for bold and beautiful street art?
One thing I’ve been hearing from you guys is that you want to hear more about my current travels right after they happen. Well, ask and ye shall receive! I’m jumping in to start sharing some posts from Florida and Tennessee, a trip so fresh I just unpacked from it.
This post is brought to your by VISIT FLORIDA. I maintain full editorial control and as always all thoughts, opinions, and street art happy dances are my own.
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