ST. PETERSBURG — Dozens of local movers and shakers mingled among the coloring pencils, handmade soaps and ceramic cups adorning the rough wooden shelves of the Chihuly Collection’s spruced-up gift shop.
The venue at 400 Beach Drive seems an unlikely place for a hopping Friday evening gathering; museum gift shops are often, after all, somewhat of an afterthought to the main attraction. But museum officials see the expanded retail space, which features a nod to Dale Chihuly’s Seattle boathouse glass-blowing space, as an important piece of the mission of the Morean Art Center, the Chihuly Collection’s parent organization.
“Originally this was a space where you got your tickets before you went into the collection,” said Andy Schlauch, who has been the collection’s executive director since late last year. “We had a small theater we had rotated videos.”
The space is about three times the size of the former gift shop. It was located farther back on the property in a space that now houses temporary exhibits from guest artists who will change quarterly. The inaugural of these, currently on display, is a small collection curated by well-known local glass artist Duncan McClellan.
The constant rotation of exhibits coupled with the retail space’s spot facing Beach Drive and the downtown waterfront aims to draw repeat visitors.
“We want people to come back because every dollar that we net here at the Chihuly Collection goes back to support the education programs we offer at the Morean Arts Center, 719 Central Ave., so it goes straight back to the community,” said Sarah Aldrich, a spokeswoman for the Morean Arts Center.