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 the collection, exhibitions, and education for its diverse audiences.

mfa-kapok-tree

MFA Kapok tree aka Bombax Tree

Museum and campus

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.”

The Bombax tree on our South lawn was planted by the Museum’s first Director, Rexford Stead (1923-1983). It was close to 3 feet high when was planted right after the museum opened in the Spring of 1965 to commemorate the 50-year-old building that stood on that spot. The building at 201 Beach Drive had housed the Art Club (now the Morean Arts Center located at on Central Ave.) and served as the temporary administration building for the early days of the museum. Mrs. Margaret Acheson Stuart, founder, and Rexford Stead both had offices there starting in 1962 during the planning and development stage of the MFA. The building was torn down in the Spring of 1965 after the completion of the museum’s construction.

After decades of incredible growth—of our Collection and visitors—the Hazel Hough Wing, designed by Yann Weymouth of HOK, was added to the original building where many weddings, events, and MFA programs are now held. The Hazel Hough Wing houses the Mary Alice McClendon Glass Conservatory, the Special Exhibition Galleries including one on the second floor, The MFA Store, and MFA Café.