From the boardroom to the hub of the art scene, Tom James and his wife Mary have ridden into their sunset years with a huge cultural achievement, opening the doors to the magnificent James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art on Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg.
The 80,000-square-foot space is a time-travel capsule to the Western frontier. Enter through a sandstone sculptural exterior reminiscent of the Southwestern mesas into a soaring lobby adorned by a two-story black granite waterfall, high ceiling and streaming sunshine.
Every space resonates with Southwestern ambience (think cliffs and cave dwellings) intermixed with Western nostalgia and homage to cowboy culture, especially the massive wooden saloon bar adorning the café (a19th century San Francisco hotel relic).
For lovers of John Wayne and Native American culture, the 400 pieces on display are showstoppers, especially the large sculptures of horseback-riding Native Americans. “We hope that our guests will come and be taken to a place where much of our culture and heritage began,” said Tom James. “And that every visit to our collection will include education as part of the experience.”
With 30,000 square feet of gallery space, the museum features works by 200+ artists, including Charles Russell, Frederic Remington, Allan Houser, Jesse Monongya, Howard Terpning, Bob Kuhn, John Coleman, Bonnie Marris, John Seerey-Lester, Tammy Garcia, Ernest C. Simmons and William Acheff.
In addition to the eight galleries, the museum includes a theatre, shop, cafe catered by Datz, special events space for up to 750 people and events and programming for all ages. The special exhibition gallery will feature a premiere wildlife art show and sale when it opens in July 2018 in partnership with the Society of Animal Artists.
Vistas Gallery: Features large landscape paintings of the West’s grand vistas, setting the stage for a cultural excursion westward.
Early West Gallery: Western art created from 1890 – 1950s including Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, Taos Society of Artists and more.
Native Life Gallery: Scenes of 19th century Native subjects – families, cultural traditions, hunting and ceremonies as well as 20th and 21st century artists not of Native heritage.
Native Artists Gallery: 20th and 21st century American Indian artists and the Jewel Box, a stunning collection of contemporary American Indian jewelry.
Frontier Gallery: Showcases the 19th century westward adventures for European-Americans in the west, including a visual story of Cowboy Culture, from life in the saddle to outlaws and pioneers.
New West Gallery: Features Western art influenced by art movements and popular culture.
Wildlife Gallery: Wildlife depicted in their natural habitats, from grizzlies to bison and birds to big cats.