The Lively Art Scene in Tampa Bay

Art in Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay area has both beautiful museums showcasing famous artists, like Salvador Dali, and a lively local art scene with regular exhibitions devoted to some real contemporary talent.

St. Petersburg

The cornerstone of fine art in Tampa Bay is the new Salvador Dali museum in St. Petersburg. The brand new, $35M structure is uniquely designed to both display Dali’s unique artwork. Physically beautiful, it houses the largest collection of the surrealist’s work outside of Spain. The museum was also designed to withstand up to 165MPH winds that come with a Category 5 hurricane. While the obvious star is Dali’s surprising variety of work, the guides do a great job in educating their guests as to the life and times and unique personality that informed Salvador Dali’s work. 

Located near The Pier and St. Petersburg’s BayWalk  tourist areas is the Museum of Fine Arts. This smaller museum has been displaying wonderful artwork since 1965 and just continues to shine. Their permanent collection includes Monet’s haunting Le Parlement, effet debrouillard (Parliament, Effect of Fog) and Poppy, by Georgia O’Keeffe. The current exhibition, The Human Touch: Selections from the RBC Wealth Management Art Collection, explores the variety of the human psyche expressed in art. 

If you’re interested in the more local St. Petersburg art scene, you should definitely check in regularly with The Arts Center: The Arts Center is a non-profit that provides classes, workspace, exhibitions and nurtures local talent in many ways.  


The new Tampa Museum of Art is a showpiece in downtown Tampa and Tampa’s Riverwalk district. Located right along the Hillsborough River and looking across to the spires of the University of Tampa, the Tampa Museum of Art is a hub for the arts in Tampa. Currently exhibiting the first Degas suite of works brought to the Tampa area, it houses an important selection of bronzes, paintings and drawings that illustrate the close relationship between his sculpture and 2D work. The next exhibit will be of the Hadley Martin Fisher collection of more contemporary, conceptual work. 

USF Contemporary Art Museum, located on campus at the University of South Florida in North Tampa is a wonderful venue that regularly exhibits the most creative, impactful art in Tampa Bay. The stated objective to the museum is to introduce students, faculty and the community to current cultural trends through art. The result of this goal has been to bring great works by Vito Acconci, Atelier van Lieshout (AVL ), Frances Barth, Bili Bidjocka, Jim Campbell and many more.  

The Gasparilla Festival of the Arts is a favorite annual event and one of the best places to see and enjoy both the local art scene and beautiful downtown Tampa. The 2011 event, taking place in Curtis Hixon Park in March, featured hundreds of artists and some great works in Photography, Watercolors, Sculpture and more. At least one winning artist from past Gasparilla Festivals, Hoang Van Bui, had works featured at the Olympics in Atlanta and has participated in several Smithsonian Exhibitions. This is a must-see event.


Sarasota is at the southern end of what’s considered the Tampa Bay Area, but the art scene there makes it more that worth the drive. Anchored by the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota stands out in the life of Art in the region.

The unique and stunning Ringling Museum is located on 20 acres of bay front property. The Venetian Gothic building would be attraction enough even without an art collector’s dream inside, and yes, it is the same Ringling from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus that bequeathed both his estate and collection to the venture. 

For the local art scene, which is rich and constant, you can either start with the Art Center Sarasota for a schedule of local exhibitions or just drive down the aptly named Boulevard of the Arts  and explore on your own.


Tampa Bay is an area rich in the Arts and has made significant investments in the past few years in museums and venues for artistic exploration.

Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, FL

Georgia O'Keefe Exhibit

Georgia O'Keefe - Poppy (1927)Credit: Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, FLCredit: Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, FL

Tampa Museum of Art

Colins DinerCredit: Tampa Museum of ArtCredit: Tampa Museum of Art