150 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, (727) 892-4200, thejamesmuseum.org
Wedged awkwardly into a mixed-use downtown block and parking garage, the James doesn’t make its full impact until you enter the 33,000-square-foot entry hall known as the Arroyo—a swoon-worthy space with soaring walls made of teak sandstone from India meant to evoke the mesas of the Southwest, a two-story waterfall and a soothing soundtrack of Native American flute. Ubiquitous starchitect Yann Weymouth created a beautifully complementary environment for the artworks, which represent a lifetime of collecting by Tom James (chairman emeritus of Raymond James) and wife, Mary.
The assortment of Western and wildlife art is rich in paintings, sculpture, jewelry and artifacts, much of it jaw-dropping, as in Vic Payne’s bronze of a Chisholm Trail cattle drive, Matthew Hiller’s painting of a peacock in flight, and the exquisite creations in the Jewel Box gallery, like the Butterfly Squash Blossom Necklace made with 11 types of turquoise.
Special exhibitions do a commendable job of expanding upon notions of the West, and the programming includes a monthly acoustic music series on Tuesdays when the museum is open late.
10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesdays
Approximately 55 minutes
$20 ($15 seniors, students, active military; $10 youth 7-18; Tuesday admissions $10 and $5)
The work of contemporary Native American artists makes the most visceral impact here, such as Fritz Scholder’s dynamic portraits, which—like the politically charged, Pop Art- influenced works in the New West gallery—challenge stereotypes.
Speaking of Pop Art, the special exhibition Warhol’s West continues through Jan. 2, 2022, tracing Andy Warhol’s fascination with Western imagery. Later that month, the museum presents the revelatory Away From Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories (Jan. 28-March 16, 2022), documenting the U.S. government’s campaign to erase “Indianness” from Native American children beginning in the 1870s.
A trove of fine leather goods, turquoise jewelry, Native American pottery, cowboy hats, hand-crafted flutes and even jigsaw puzzles of old Sunset magazine covers.
Located in the same building as the James, Datz is a big, brash restaurant serving big, brash dishes like Darth’s Burger and Datchos. Just a block away on First Avenue South is Social Roost, where the cocktails are chic and the poultry-centric menu includes a superb chicken pot pie.