On the second Saturday of each month, a select number of galleries in St. Petersburg stay open late. The gallery owners put out chocolates, cookies and candies, straighten their displays, wipe off the last sticky handprint and look forward to greeting patrons during the Downtown Arts Association Second Saturday Gallery Walk.

St. Petersburg was voted one of the “Top 25 Arts Destinations, Mid-Size Category” by the readers of American Style magazine, and the gallery walk is an example of why it has received that honor. Wandering the streets of St. Pete, you can stumble into an exciting art studio on practically every block. However, for many people an impediment to gallery hopping is that the hours are generally from 10 to 6 pm, weekdays. During the Second Saturday event, the participating studios extend their hours, opening from 5:30 until 9 p.m. We were able to visit five venues recently along Central and 2nd Avenues, from the Pier all the way to 5th Street. Walking shoes or sneakers are a must so your feet don’t give out before you do.

Starting at the Florida Craftsmen Gallery, 501 Central Avenue at 5th St, 727-821-7391, http://www.floridacraftsmen.net/, home for the work of over 250 local artists, our eyes widened at the eclectic offerings. Everything from glass jewelry to metal wall hangings to nude ceramic sculptures is on display. The window on the Central Avenue side frames an 8 ft by 8 ft hanging of small squares of fabric, individually appliquéd, beaded and embellished, in a veritable rainbow of colors by Marlene Glickman. As you walk past the wall hanging, the slight disruption of air caused by the movement of your body makes the squares sway gently, giving the work life and movement. Glass sculptures by Susan Gott are displayed in one window, vases and lamps rest upon staggered pedestals, a table of hand-turned wooden bowls and platters complete the multi-media extravaganza. Against the wall, a crib filled with Grace Ann Alfiero’s patchwork Goth-inspired bunnies? kitties? invites the eye and then shocks it. These are the perfect gift for a disaffected, sullen teenager or an adult with a warped sense of humor. Charlie Parker’s fireplace enclosure of hand crafted tiles sets off a naïve-style Don Quixote sculpted by Martha Kehm. There are glass kisses, ceramic teapots, yard markers and glass and metal beaded ceiling fan pulls because beauty does not stop at eye level, nor does it only rest upon a wall. On Jan. 18th, the exhibit “Highly Recommended: Emerging Artists Invitational” will open, running until Feb 22. This exhibit of up and coming artists will feature cutting edge works that erase any preconceived boundaries the viewer may have between ‘art’ and ‘craft’

The Glass Canvas Gallery, 146 2nd Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues, 727-821-6767, is devoted exclusively to the glass arts, featuring the work of over 350 artists. Abstract sculptures both large and small, platters and perfume bottles are the oeuvre of this contemporary gallery. Delicate ornaments, globes and finials hang from a tree in the back of the gallery. A fish tank with a warning label “Do Not Feed” holds glass insects, including a preying mantis, a scorpion and iridescent dragonflies. A cat and dog molded from flat, colored sheets of plastic were extraordinarily real in their expressions, ready to be taken home and loved. These pets don’t have to be walked or fed, either. A few of the more prominent artists carried are Rosin of Italy, James Connie and Vandermark.

Out on the Pier, is the Crystal Mirage Gallery, 800 2nd Avenue, 727-895-1166, http://www.crystalmirage.com/. Jewelry lies in velvet cases, while sea-life sculptures, Native American crafts sit in large glass cabinets. Fantasy figurines of trolls and goblins make faces, shovel dirt and plan mischief as they sit in the tightly packed display units. Japanese low-fired Raku ceramic ware, Swarovski crystal pieces, collectibles and metal abstracts fill up the rest of this jam-packed gallery. Correia, Abelman , Zellique, Schmidt Rhea art glass studios , Zack Studios, Moon Rocks, Eickholt Glass, Douglas Sweet, Madd Art, Hal Berger, Buzz Blodgett, Loy Allen , Krystonia are a few of the lines carried here. The Crystal Mirage fulfills subscription requests if you collect series art. If a piece is not in stock, the staff is happy to order it for you. Every possible inch is filled with beautiful pieces of art and craft work. If you don’t see what you you’re looking for, ask because the owners may have it in the back, waiting for a display spot.

Going out to or returning from the Pier, you may want to hop on one of the free trolleys that run about every five minutes between the Pier and the parking lots. There is a second trolley which goes into downtown St. Petersburg, stopping at Baywalk and the museums.

Shapiro’s at Baywalk was next. Shapiro’s, 185 2nd Avenue North, 727-894-2111, http://www.shapirogallery.com/, recently opened a branch in Sautee, Georgia. A friendly moose crafted of hubcaps and metal pipes guards the entrance, letting you know you’re in for something off the beaten path. Shapiro’s carries Kathy Bransfield, Watchcraft, Gary Rosenthal, Yardbirds, Cricket Forge, Heartwood Creations and Mikutowski Woodworking. The works range from ‘found art’ (art made of discarded materials) to wall décor, pottery, leather, Judaica, coffee scoops and nightlights. There are pokes to decorate your yard, oversized metal wall words, turned and painted wood platters, hand punched leather bags and clocks. The Judaica includes menorahs, mezzuzah cases, a sterling yod, tzedakah boxes, dreidels, marriage and bar/bat mitzvah memorabilia. Hammered metal bracelets, inlaid wood cutting boards and boxes are in another corner. There are pieces for every room of your home or office, from the kitchen to the boardroom. The staff is very helpful and informative, mentioning a number of upcoming local art and craft events.

The Artspace at 10 Fifth St off Central Avenue, 727-418-8887, http://www.artspaceartists.com/ is a warren of working artist’s studios, so anyone could be there. The 18 artists in residence work in a variety of media. This past Saturday, Mack Hicks was explaining his “paradoxical art” to a few visitors. Reminiscent of Escher, his work plays with trompe l’oeil, perspective and illusion. While he has stark paintings on the wall, the 3-dimensional pieces, crafted of foam core and painted are even more intriguing. Moving closer or back, swaying slightly from side to side, the pieces swim in and out, and seem to shimmer. One piece has three sections, depicting the Lincoln Memorial. President Lincoln, sitting on his chair, appears to be inside the Memorial and then outside. It is hard to tear your eyes away from the piece, but when you do, there are paradoxical pieces depicting ancient Greece, the Pier and other places.

Second Saturday can be an exciting way to spend an evening, enjoying the latest in contemporary art and crafts. The next few 2nd Saturdays are February 9th, March 8th and April 12th. Participating studios vary, please visit the website or call the individual gallery beforehand to determine whether or not it will be open. For more information, visit http://www.stpetearts.org/ or surrealmuse.com/category/tampa/tampa/.

Published in NTNN on February 8,2008. Volume 16, issue 3.

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