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Arts and Crafts Movement museum opens today • St Pete Catalyst

Six years in the making, Rodolfo “Rudy” Ciccarello’s $90 million vision will be unveiled to the public today.

The Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, the five-story, 137,100-square-foot facility Ciccarello built from scratch to house his collection of American decorative and fine arts created between (approximately) 1890 and 1930. It’s located at 355 4th Street N.

The American Arts and Crafts Movement was considered an artistic response to the Industrial Revolution. From art to architecture, the focus was on craftsmanship, the use of nature as inspiration, and the value of simplicity, utility – and beauty.

Ciccarello’s collection, which includes furniture, metalwork, lighting, ceramics, paintings, prints, photography, woodblocks and other hand-made items, is expansive. The estimated value of his collection is more than $60 million.

The Tarpon Springs resident, who made his fortune as the founder and CEO of Florida Infusion Services, a pharmaceutical distributor, made his last expansive public comments to date in a 2019 interview with the online art auction site Toomey & Co.

He talked about architect Alberto Alfonso’s design for the building. “Our goal and challenge was to find a balance between the art and the architecture,” Ciccarello said. “I believe the final result is a seamless combination of both: contemporary yet mindful of tradition.

“There are unique architectural features evoking the American Arts and Crafts movement throughout — from the spiral, Mackintosh-inspired, rose staircase to the multi-colored, Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced, stained-glass skylight windows to the white, stone-clad, pottery-like ovoids on the building’s exterior. And, in keeping with the Arts and Crafts philosophy, there are natural materials used throughout including more than 60,000 square feet of quarter-sawn American white oak and natural stone.”

The museum saga began with the 2004 creation of Ciccarello’s nonprofit Two Red Roses Foundation, which he endowed with his ever-growing collection.

Rudy Ciccarello and architect Alberto Alfonso. Photo: Two Red Roses Foundation.

The search for a museum site began in Tampa, Executive Director Tom Magoulis told the Catalyst in 2020.  “We negotiated with the city for six months or a year, and that deal just fell apart. All of a sudden this lot becomes available here in St. Pete. He jumped on it, and the rest is sort of history.”

In that 2019 interview, Ciccarello sang the praises of the museum’s new home. “I believe we were fortunate to find the perfect location for the museum,” he said. “St. Petersburg, Florida is a thriving, vibrant, and diverse city. It has gained a reputation as a truly national and international arts destination.”

From the opening exhibit, Legacy, Love, Labor, and Art: The Roycroft Enterprise.

The facility began to rise in 2015, with the construction of a parking garage. One opening date after another came and went with delays caused by construction issues, design changes, the pandemic and a January, 2021 suit against the Boston firm hired to create lighting fixtures.

The museum also includes a welcome center, café, theater, library, museum store, educational studio, a 3,700-square-foot banquet facility and a high-end restaurant, Ambrosia.

The first temporary exhibits are Legacy, Love, Labor, and Art: The Roycroft Enterprise, showcasing over 75 works made by the Roycroft community, including printed books, furniture, lighting, metalwork and more, and Lenses Embracing the Beautiful: Pictorial Photographs from the Two Red Roses Foundation, with more than 150 pictorial photographs and rare books from around the world.

“This museum will be the epicenter for the study of the American Arts and Crafts movement,” Ciccarello said in a prepared statement. “Our mission is to preserve and share these beautiful works of art with the public and to teach future generations to appreciate hand craftsmanship and honest design.”

Ciccarello’s facility is5eportedly the first in the world dedicated solely to the American Arts and Crafts Movement. It is the third self-funded museum to open in St. Pete in recent years, following the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art (built by retired financial titan and art collector Tom James) and the Imagine Museum (owned by art-glass collector and philanthropist Trish Duggan).

The Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement opens at 10 a.m. today. All information is here.

Original caption: Major construction of the Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, seen here from 3rd Avenue N., is expected to be complete by mid-summer 2019. Photo by Bill DeYoung