Florida CraftArt is a statewide nonprofit organization headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Its mission is to grow the statewide creative economy by engaging the community and advancing Florida’s fine craft artists and their work.
Fine craft art is presented in the 2,000-square-foot retail gallery, as well as in a large gallery that features curated exhibitions and programming. On the second floor of the building are 18 artists’ studios (ArtLofts) and a classroom where workshops designed to educate artists in the business of art are held.
Florida CraftArt’s premier event is the CraftArt Festival, a two-day outdoor fine craft festival held during the week before Thanksgiving. Central Avenue and 5th Street are closed to traffic as over 100 artists from all over the country and the world offer their finest work. This event is attended annually by over 20,000 people.
Florida CraftArt (formerly known as Florida Craftsmen) was originally organized by Louis and Elsa Freund, professors at Stetson University in Deland, Florida, in 1951. Elsa was a jeweler and the couple felt that an organization dedicated to fine craft would elevate the art form to the status it so rightly deserved. Exhibitions were organized and held annually at galleries, art centers and colleges throughout the state of Florida beginning with an exhibition at Florida State University in 1951.
The organization was incorporated in 1977 but had no official headquarters. Instead, it continued the tradition of an annual exhibition and conference with workshops featuring local and national craftsmen. Florida CraftArt settled into its first physical home when Florida Power offered space in their building in downtown St. Petersburg in 1986. Several years later, Florida Power needed the space and Florida CraftArt moved to the McNulty building in 1992.
Neither site was conducive to walk-by traffic or had the look of a true gallery. It was not until 1995, when George Rahdert offered a reasonable rental agreement for the old Rutland Department store, that Florida CraftArt had a true space which looked and felt like a gallery. The space had high ceilings and spacious windows and sales in the new space took off. In 2002, Florida CraftArt made a bold move and bought the building which now houses a 2,000-square-foot retail gallery, a similarly sized exhibition space and a second floor which is home to 18 artists’ studios known collectively as ArtLofts.
Downtown St. Petersburg was still a relatively quiet area at that time, but it has been energized as an arts destination in recent years with Florida Craftsmen’s gallery as an anchor leading the charge. In 2014 the organization became Florida CraftArt and now finds itself in the heart of the Central Arts District surrounded by galleries, boutiques and great restaurants.
Board of Directors
- Kathryn Howd, President
- Kelly Ruoff, Secretary
- Alvina Miller, Treasurer
- Sarah Butz, Past President
Directors at Large
- Trevor Dunn
- Bob Devin Jones
- Tyler Jones
- Michael Graham
- Duncan McClellan
- Casey McDonough
- Dana Maley
- Michele Routh
- Lara Shelton
- Mario Telfair
- Katie Deits, Executive Director
- Janie Lorenz, Business Manager
- Liz Rogers, Gallery Manager
- Julia Collver, Gallery Assistant
- Pam Green, Bookkeeper