History

The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Florida was founded by Margaret Acheson Stuart (1896-1980) and reflects her vision of providing outstanding examples of world art in an inviting, elegant setting. The MFA, a city landmark, opened to the public in 1965–the first art museum in St. Petersburg located on the downtown waterfront. Keeping the galleries intimately scaled was important to Mrs. Stuart. The Museum is dedicated to serving all people by pursuing excellence in art from antiquity to the present through collection, exhibitions, and education for its diverse audiences.

Kapok aka Bombak Tree

Kapok aka Bombax Tree

The Building

The original wing of the museum was designed by architect John Volk. According to Volk, “a museum should give a feeling of permanence and that is what I have tried to do with this building.” But this museum is not intimidating, it welcomes you inside both its exhibition galleries and intimate gardens and encourages you to stay.

The Bombax tree on the South lawn of the MFA was planted by the Museum’s first Director, Rexford Stead. It was 2 or 3 ft high and was rooted in a bucket! It was planted right after the present building opened in the Spring of 1965 to commemorate the 50 year old building that stood on that spot and served as the temporary administration building for the early days of the MFA. Mrs. Margaret Acheson Stuart, founder, and Rexford Stead both had offices there starting in 1962 during the planning and development stage of the MFA. It was torn down in the Spring of 1965 after the new building was finished.

After decades of incredible growth – in artwork and visitors – the Hazel Hough Wing, designed by Yann Weymouth of HOK, was added to the original building where many weddings, corporate events, and MFA programs are held. The Hazel Hough Wing houses the bright and open Mary Alice McClendon Glass Conservatory, the Special Exhibition Galleries including Works on Paper Gallery on the second floor, the interactive Explore More gallery, Museum Store, and the MFA Café.