Four years ago, glass artist Duncan McClellan moved his studio, gallery and home into a former tomato packing plant on the industrial fringes of downtown St. Petersburg. His arrival helped birth a new kind of artist colony, aptly dubbed the Warehouse Arts District.
McClellan, who serves as the director of the district’s non-profit membership organization, doubles as the area’s unofficial welcoming committee. His courtyard soirees and gallery openings serve as a coming-together of artists, art lovers, misfits, glitterati and community leaders. His 10,000-square-foot compound borders St. Pete’s Grand Central Business District and includes a hot shop, which regularly hosts classes, glass-blowing demonstrations and visiting artists.
The second American invited to study and work at the famed ARS Studio in Murano, Italy, McClellan is revered for his intricate engraving techniques. His work is in galleries and collections all over the world. In January 2013, he launched the DMG School Project, an educational outreach program designed to bring glassmaking classes and demonstrations to communities, colleges and schools.
Best business lunch: Ca Cafe
. “It’s in the same historic train station as the St. Petersburg Clay Company. It’s easy. It’s next door and they make a great Cuban sandwich.”
Favorite place to people-watch: 400 Beach Drive
. “Beach Drive between 4th Avenue and 5th Avenue in downtown St. Pete is the most entertaining corner in downtown St. Pete. You can sit within the safety of 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House, drink a cocktail and watch the flow of tourists and local pedestrians. You also can’t beat the view of the water and The Vinoy.”
Where he puts up visiting artists: The Hollander Hotel
. “It’s a hip refurbished place with a cozy bar and great live music.”
Where he goes to view art: The Warehouse Arts District.
“We’re not exactly on the beaten path. There are 224 artists within one square mile. I couldn’t have a gallery, a hot shop and two court yards if it were on the beaten path.”
Where he eats when he doesn’t mind running into everyone he knows: Gratzzi Italian Grill.
“I literally walk in and know three to four people immediately. It seems like everyone is out and about at Gratzzi. It’s elegant service and you walk away with a lunch that’s under ten bucks.”
Where he eats when he wants to fly below the radar: Kissin’ Cuzzins.
“I go for the $8.99 chicken fried steak.”
Favorite tourist trap: The Dalì Museum.
“They’re constantly doing innovative stuff. I commend them on the number of tourists they bring to our city. Never mind how valuable the museum is in abstract terms; in sheer dollars and cents, nothing comes close to bringing that many heads to St. Pete.”
Best place to stretch a buck: MetroThrift Store.
“I just found a nice Boss shirt there for a buck. My wife is the thrift store maven and now she’s converted me.”
Where he goes for romance: The Don Cesar.
“We like the Maritana Grille. The service and presentation is beautiful. After dinner we’ll grab drink and walk around the property.”
Favorite place to watch live theater: Studio@620
. “The programming is so varied and different.”
Favorite artistic partnership: Museum of Fine Arts.
“The collaborations they’ve forged with the Tampa Museum of Art just absolutely floors me. It’s a great step forward to see these two entities working together.”
Best place to wax poetic with an artist: The Birchwood.
“It’s a new dreamy kind of place and afterward you can walk to a lecture at the Museum of Fine Arts.”