As the Industrial Revolution crescendoed in the late 1800s, artists and artisans in England produced beautiful and functional handcrafted items—many gleaning inspiration from the natural world—to combat the rise of mass-produced goods.
The Arts and Crafts Movement spread to America around 1890, with numerous companies producing unique pieces until around 1930.
A new museum dedicated to creations of that era opened in September in St. Petersburg. Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement is the only museum dedicated solely to the American Arts and Crafts Movement in the world.
Its long-awaited opening fulfills a dream of Tarpon Springs businessman Rudy Ciccarello.
The founder of Florida Infusion Services—a specialty pharmaceutical distributor—Rudy became interested in the movement more than two decades ago after being introduced to the work of Gustav Stickley, whom he calls “arguably the leader and most important entrepreneurial promoter of the movement in America.”
“I was impressed with his rugged furniture designs and use of natural materials, and purchased my very first original Stickley, a bookcase,” Rudy says. “I became a passionate student of the movement, purchasing items for my personal collection.
“The collection expanded to include more than 200 works of furniture, pottery, tiles, lighting, metal, photography, prints, fine art and books, and needed to be shared.”
Rudy established Two Red Roses Foundation in 2004. The educational nonprofit is dedicated to preserving his expansive collection and sharing its pieces with the public.
The museum he inspired is five stories and 137,000-square-feet with a grand atrium and dramatic staircase designed by award-winning Tampa architect Alberto Alfonso. It is part of the waterfront arts district.
Inside are several exhibit galleries, a cafe, a variety of educational studios, and a research library that beckons visitors to sit and enjoy books, some of which are rare or unique. Coming soon are a full-service bar and restaurant.
Most visitors are interested in the galleries—exhibit spaces filled with artwork that runs the gamut of the movement. More than 2,000 works are on display, including about 800 pieces from Two Red Roses Foundation.
Rudy says the collection represents important and rare examples by giants of the movement: furniture by Gustav Stickley and Charles Rohlfs; pottery by Grueby, Newcomb and Frederick Rhead; leaded glass windows by Frank Lloyd Wright; lighting from Tiffany Studios; photography by Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen; and art by Margaret Patterson and Arthur Wesley Dow.
The museum exhibits several large items saved from buildings, including a complete wood-paneled entry hall designed by California architectural firm Greene and Greene; a 60-foot mural from Rookwood Pottery; a Louis Sullivan staircase; and an entire floor pulled from the Grueby Aloha Boathouse in Rhode Island.
“Part of our mission is preservation,” Rudy says. “Without my intervention, installations so prominently displayed in MAACM may well have been lost forever.”
Two temporary exhibits continue through January 9: “Love, Labor and Art: The Roycroft Enterprise,” which offers 75 works made by the Roycroft community of New York, and “Lenses Embracing the Beautiful: Pictorial Photographs from the Two Red Roses Foundation.”
For those interested in more information about the artwork, the museum offers an app that explains specific pieces throughout the galleries.
“As part of our commitment to educate, it was essential to create a written history of the collection,” Rudy says. “After years in research and development, seven fully illustrated scholarly catalogs documenting the collection have been published and are available to everyone. These catalogs will live on and keep the spirit of the movement and its wonderful artistic work alive forever.”
Plans are in the works for educational programs. Art-making activities in the Education Studio are the first Saturday of each month. An evening of activities and a cash bar for young professionals are every third Thursday. Each month, a curated film is shown, with a docent-guided tour following.
“For adults, we have planned programs, such as a film series, lectures and conversations with curators and contemporary artisans,” Rudy says. “Perhaps most importantly, we have designed a dynamic and robust education program focused on children to provide creative, hands-on activities that connect them to the collection and the movement.”