Five Reasons Why a Trip to St. Pete/Clearwater is an Artistic Experience Like No Other – Smithsonian Magazine
Imagine: vivid colors and expansive shapes that appear one way from a distance and completely different close-up. It’s everything art should be—enthralling, adventurous, and fun. It’s on the walls of museums and galleries, but it also appears in the form of vibrant street murals, captivating performances in historic theaters and intimate nightlife venues, and a pier that juts out over the crystal-blue waters of Tampa Bay.
This is the art scene of St. Pete/Clearwater, named a small U.S. city with a “big-time art scene” by Conde Nast Traveler in 2022. Whether your goal is to absorb internationally-recognized masterworks, or simply soak in the area’s art-centric culture between trips to beautiful white-sand beaches, the art scene here is truly one that must be seen to be believed.
Below, we’ve rounded up five reasons why a trip to St. Pete/Clearwater is truly an artistic experience unlike any other.
1. Public Art
Mangroves and Manatees by Tatiana Suarez
If there’s an outdoor surface in St. Pete—a sidewalk, a wall, even the street itself—there’s a good chance it’s served as a canvas to one of the area’s many talented artists. The city is home to over 600 murals, some of which can be seen during a mural-focused walking tour through the Central Arts District, a great way to get the lay of the land while taking in some of the newest and most vibrant art around.
In October, the SHINE Mural Festival puts the spotlight on the art form, inviting renowned local, national, and international artists to create new murals each year in the art districts and surrounding neighborhoods of St. Pete. The muralists, given full creative expression, are invited to use the walls as their canvas, highlighting the power art has to transform spaces and unite community.
We Rise By Lifting Others by Leo Gomez
The Global Currency by Nneka Jones and Bianca Burros
Year-round, public art is fostered through community driven collectives and initiatives like Creative Pinellas, a local non-profit organization that supports the art community through mentorship, events and grants to local artists. St. Pete/Clearwater even has its own public art and design program, including a collection of public artworks on display at the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and other public spaces like municipal buildings and parks.
SPACEcraft aims to make creativity an active, hands-on experience. The project uses repurposed cargo shipping containers to create a modular network of creative spaces where people can interact and create together. Every eight weeks, the containers are relocated to a new park where community members can experience art via instructor-led or self-guided activities on the themes of Make, Play, Read and Grow.
Armadillo by Paul Eppling
Bending Arc by Janet Echelman
At Boyd Hill Nature Park, see the fanciful sculptures of animals made from recycled materials such as car parts and scraps of sheet metal. The Armadillo is especially beloved, and often appears in the travel photos of St. Pete/Clearwater visitors.
Make sure to visit the St. Pete Pier to catch a glimpse of Bending Arc, an installation designed by storied artist Janet Echelman, who used 180 miles’ worth of twine to create a structure that, at night, is illuminated in shimmering shades of magenta and violet.