Thumbnail image from MAACM website
Article and photos by Kathy A. Megyeri
The Tampa-St. Pete area is now a thriving arts center, and the latest addition is the Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement (MAACM) which opened in September of this year. It is the only museum in the world dedicated to the Arts and Crafts movement from 1890 to 1930 as a reaction against the mass production of the Industrial Revolution.
The museum features works by Gustav Stickley, Charles Rohlfs and Frank Lloyd Wright. The 137,000 square foot building houses over 800 works of furniture, pottery, tiles, metalwork, lighting, leaded glass, woodblock prints, painting and photographs. Period installations include complete wood paneled rooms, a custom-tiled bathroom, boathouse floor and a 600-tile mural.
Objects from the museum’s collection and pieces from Two Red Roses Foundation, established by businessman, philanthropist and collector Rudy Ciccarello, who has collected over 2,000 objects for over 30 years, make it the most important private collection of American Arts and Crafts movement in the world. The museum contains some of the movement’s rarest objects.
The building itself will take your breath away. Ciccarello collaborated with Tampa architect Alberto Alfonso to create this five-story building with grand atrium, sky lights, a futuristic spiral staircase with handcrafted Venetian plaster, wood, metal and stone finishes. Workmanship, functionality, quality materials and simplicity are the hallmarks of the American Arts and Crafts Movement which is the antithesis of our love for disposable plastics, Styrofoam, modular and interchangeable parts.
The Arts and Crafts Museum exhibits craftsmanship from talented individuals who paid the utmost attention to detail and, thus, honors the simplicity and durability of the Arts and Crafts Movement. There are no virtual reality headsets, scanned check-out codes, light-shows or background sound tracts.
So, just who is Rudy Ciccarello, the man made this fabulous museum possible? He came to Boston from Italy in 1968 to be a diplomat analyst at the Italian Trade Commission. He earned a Bachelor of Arts at Boston University and a Bachelor of Science in science from Northeastern University’s School of Pharmacy. Then, he moved to Florida to become a registered consultant pharmacist.
From a $15,000 investment and a 1,000 square foot pharmacy in a strip mall, he built the second largest national specialty pharmaceutical distributorship in the United States with yearly sales of more than $480 million. He was awarded the honor of being the Florida Entrepreneur of the Year in 1994 and had the time and money to collect objects from the American Arts and Crafts Movement. He first became interested when he saw a cabinet maker crafting a bookcase copied from one designed by Gustav Stickley, and he bought the original. He’s been so hooked since that he even bought entire rooms of tiled walls, photographs of the early 20th century Pictorialist Movement and Photo-Secession Movement including Alfred Stieglitz.
From 1997 to 2001, he amassed one of the largest collections of furniture, tiles, pottery, metalwork and fine decorative artwork. His foundation, Two Red Roses Foundation, whose name is taken from the William Morris poem, “Two Red Roses Across the Moon,” continued acquiring, restoring, preserving and exhibiting these rare and unique pieces, and thus, the Museum was born to house and exhibit the pieces permanently. With its four stories, 300 car parking garage, exhibition galleries, rooms for special events, 100-seat auditorium, library, graphic studio, café, theatre, park, restaurant, gift shop and bookstore, this is a destination Florida site, one that cost at least $90 million and that is rarely built on this scale in the U.S. today without government assistance.
So, after you visit the Dali Museum, the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art, the Florida Holocaust Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Great Explorations Children’s Museum, the St. Petersburg Museum of History, the Ted Williams Museum and the Duncan McClellan Gallery, include this new Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement on your itinerary. Then, you’ll be convinced that Florida is on the map permanently for its dedication to history and the arts.
355 4th Street North, St. Petersburg, FL
Open every day (except Mondays) at 10 am.
Admission is $25 for adults. Displayed works can be found on the Two Red Roses Foundation website.