Eye Candy from the Pre-COVID-19 Era

It’s been too long! Perhaps like you, the pandemic has me pretty bummed out. I am a writer at heart. Every day I think, “I gotta get a blog entry going.” And it’s only 300 words! But when so much of what you want to share cannot be fully enjoyed right now, why bother? That is a terrible attitude. Why bother? To share the beauty of this world. What we all need right now is a bit more eye candy. Here you go, I’ll make this a double.

In early March, a week before Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb closed the state, I flew to St. Petersburg, Florida, to chase away the winter blues by visiting my friend Janet who moved there from Evansville about five years ago. Janet knows what I love — glass, flowers, beaches, and fun. She set up our itinerary accordingly.

First, meet Janet. Here we are at her beautiful friend Eva’s International Women’s Day celebration before we went to drum circle. What an experience! I hope neither are a thing of the past.

Now for the eye candy. The Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District is a privately owned museum founded in 2016 with a vision of creating the most significant collection of contemporary glass art in the world. Though St. Petersburg already was home to a significant Dale Chihuly collection (also on the tour), Imagine displays a considerable amount of glass by the iconic American artist. I was astonished we could walk freely around these beautiful works, many [not] encased in glass. What about children, I wondered? When I called the museum this week to confirm artists’ names, I mentioned this to the associate I spoke with.

“Children know to keep their hands to themselves,” she told me. “It’s the adults who can’t always be trusted.” Truth.

▲ Dale Chihuly vessel, 1988

▲ Anthony James, Portal Icosahedron, 2018, and Emily Brock, After, 2016

▲ Emily Brock, Coffee and Cake, 2016

For the past 100 years, the organization known today as the Morean Arts Center has been a destination for artists and art lovers. Today it houses among its galleries The Chihuly Collection and the Morean Glass Studio. The centerpieces of the Chihuly Collection are two installations, Ruby Red Icicles Chandelier and Mille Fiori, both created in 2010 by Chihuly and installed in 2017. This Chihuly exhibition marks the first time his artwork has been displayed in a facility designed specifically to complement the artist’s immersive installations.

▲ Dale Chihuly, Ruby Red Icicles Chandelier and Mille Fiori

In the Morean Glass Studio, live glassblowing demonstrations are typically offered daily. From spectator bleachers, guests witness the blower and his associate, the narrator, create a gorgeous large vessel.

▲ Blowing glass demonstration at the Morean Glass Studio

Historic Sunken Gardens feels like an old Florida roadside attraction, and it is. It’s the oldest tourist attraction on Florida’s west coast and is one of the oldest roadside attractions in the U.S. The gardens were formed in the early 1900s by a private landowner who had purchased 6 acres of land, including a shallow lake 10 feet below sea level, which he drained to form his private “sunken” garden. Today the gardens are owned by the city of St. Petersburg and are maintained by volunteers.

▲ Chilean Flamingos at Historic Sunken Gardens

▲ Palm trees rooted for a century

We ate delicious, beautiful food in vibrant restaurants — pad thai at Nitally’s ThaiMex in the Historic Uptown district of St. Petersburg and vegan and gluten-free comfort food at Love Food Central were among my favorites.

▲ Pad Thai at Nitally’s ThaiMex

▲ Atmosphere of Nitally’s Thai Mex

▲ Love Food Central exterior photo

Janet says she is working on an itinerary for round two, post COVID. I’ll be there!

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