The Best Spaces to See Contemporary Art in Tampa

The Courtyard italian style gardens at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, FL, USA
The Courtyard italian style gardens at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, FL, USA | © Images-USA / Alamy
Audra Clemons

Tampa Bay is one of Florida’s premiere west coast vacation destinations, offering fun, sun, cuisine and culture for both couples and families alike. Historical significance and international influence makes the city interesting for an eclectic collection of art, exhibited across Tampa and neighbouring St. Petersburg. From local gems to international sensations, here are ten art galleries not to be missed while in Tampa, Florida.

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Cracker Country Living Museum

For history buffs, or those who enjoyed reading ‘Swamplandia’, the Cracker Country Living Museum is a must. This museum pays tribute to the native Caucasian Floridians, aka: Crakers, and their way of settler life on the land. Offering reenactments of the early Florida livelihoods, which revolved around chores, livestock tending, family and community, the museum is open on select days and available for privately scheduled tours.

The Dali Museum

The Dali Museum was built around one of the most extensive private collections in the world. Founded on the works collected by Reynolds and Eleanor Morse, the museum includes 96 oil paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and an archive of Dali masterpieces. Beyond just Dali admiration, the museum invites guests to participate in a yoga class, a tour of the architectural building and inspired design by Yann Weymouth from HOK, as well as special exhibits from other world-renowned artists, like Picasso and Miro.

The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts

The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts is a museum dedicated to preserving and exhibiting historic and contemporary photographic works by nationally and internationally known artists, focusing on photos that are central to contemporary life and culture. Admission price is a ten-dollar for adults and eight-dollar for kids suggested donation and the museum is open to the public daily.

Henry B. Plant Museum

This national historic landmark, formerly known as the Tampa Bay Hotel, offers docent and audio tours describing the Moorish architect, gardens and Victorian opulence of the Henry B. Plant Museum. Named appropriately after its railroad tycoon proprietor, the once-hotel hosted famous people such as Teddy Roosevelt and Babe Ruth. The museum invites guests to step back in time and take a first-hand look at the Gilded Age and its opulence.

Morean Art Center

Founded in 1917 under the guise of the Art Club of St. Petersburg, the Morean Art Center stands by its message of bringing art education to people in the community – many of them being young people at risk. Part of the Morean Art Center is the world-renowned Dale Chihuly glass exhibit, displaying the likes of the ‘Ruby Red Icicle Chandelier’, which is housed in a building designed by award-winning architect Albert Alfonso. The museum also offers a behind the scenes experience, including classes on glass-blown art.

Museum of Art

Founded in 1979 and reopening in a newly built and architecturally renowned building in 2010, the Tampa Museum of Art provides public programs with a strong focus on antiquities, modern and contemporary art. Having the reputation of embracing contemporary photography and new media, the Tampa Art Museum is the regions largest contemporary gallery. More than half of the programs at the museum are free of charge, exposing the regional art community to internationally acclaimed special exhibits.

Phoenix Glass Studio & Gallery

Local resident Susan Gott is the mastermind behind the Phoenix Glass Studio & Gallery. With over 30 years experience in glasswork, Gott’s work can be found in galleries and private collections across the globe. Phoenix Glass Studio & Gallery received the 2013 Tampa’s Best Art Gallery A-list winner award, offering hand made glass, blown and cast glass and one-of-a-kind glass sculpture. Classes can also be taken, where instruction for the process of glass art creation is learned.

The Ritz Ybor

The Ritz isn’t technically a museum, it’s a live concert event venue built in 1917 and located in the historic district of Ybor City. In 1973, the building was entered into the Register of Historic Places, followed by the National Historic Landmark District in 1989. In 2007, the space underwent a two million dollar renovation, boosting it to premier status in the city. This is a grandiose place to see concerts and live music when visiting the Tampa Bay area, as the building itself commands respect.

The Ringling

Located just outside Tampa in the Sarasota Bay, The Ringling boasts a historic mansion, art museum, circus museum, historic theatre and library. John Ringling, one of five brothers who founded and owned the touring Ringling Brothers circus act, entered ‘The Roaring Twenties’ as one of America’s wealthiest men. In 1911, John and his wife Mable purchased the property and built Mable’s Italian style fantasy home – a Venetian Gothic house replicated after the palazzi in Venice, Italy, with Sarasota Bay serving as the Grand Canal. Today, the museum is home to Ringling’s personal collection of art, including Velazquez, Poussin, van Dyke, Rubens and a bronze cast of Michelangelo’s David.

Ybor City Museum State Park

Located in Tampa’s historic district, the Ybor City Museum State Park consists of the 1923-era Ferlita Bakery building, the casita of an immigrant cigar worker, a main exhibit space and a Mediterranean-style garden. Self-guided tours enlighten guests about the city’s one-time reputation as the ‘City Capital of the World’ and funds also help preserve the history for future generations to come. By Audra Clemons Audra Clemons is a creative media specialist with a passion for travel, cuisine and adventure. Based between Colombia and Florida, this former TV Producer takes her talents on the road where she captures in-between-the-lines experiences. Audra can usually be found buried behind her laptop writing articles or creating media campaigns for clients… or surfing. Connect with her on Twitter or through her website.

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