By Jim Bleyer
The James gang rode through downtown St. Petersburg Saturday after depositing a magnificent treasure there.
No, not Jesse and Frank. We’re talking about Tom and Mary and the treasure isn’t buried.
In full view is The James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art at Central Avenue and First Street, St. Pete’s latest cultural jewel and the public is gushing.
The 120-foot high, abstract structure officially opened to appropriate fanfare and enthusiasm. Tewa dancers blessed the building, reminiscent of the sandstone mesas that permeate the Western United States. Mayor Rick Kriseman appropriately described the museum as a glorious enhancement to St. Petersburg’s reputation as an arts destination.
And Tom James, former CEO of Raymond James Financial, invigorated an audience of about 200 as he recalled how he transformed a childhood passion and fascination of the Old West into a striking collection of representative sculpture, paintings, and jewelry.
Eschewing the tailored, button-downed look he sported during his professional career, James addressed the crowd decked out in authentic Western regalia. He exuded enormous pride in not only accumulating a fascinating collection depicting the Western genre but sharing it with the home city he loves.
”All people, all here, one nation,” as James so aptly put it.
The compelling architecture and well-planned gallery space of the James more than matches many older, established well-known museums around the country. As Tom James noted, a three-day weekend museum itinerary to art-centric St. Pete, not dependent on the beach or the weather, comprises a memorable sojourn.
Inside the James, the life-sized bronze sculptures are easily the stars of the show.
The sculptures dominate the 30,000 square feet of gallery space. The 400 works are but a fraction of the 3,000-piece James collection. Artists represented include Frederic Remington, Irving Couse, Charles Russell, John Sharp, Allan Houser, Jesse Monongya and many more who depict the American West from a historical and contemporary persepective.
The galleries are properly segmented: vistas, early west, native life, native artists, and frontier. Tom and Mary James emphasize they purposefully collect many contemporary pieces in order to introduce talented but as yet unheralded artists to the public.
150 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL
Open Daily 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesdays 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
General Admission – $20 Students/Military/Seniors 65+ – $15 Youth (7-18) – $10
Children (6 & under) – FREE
Public tours available on Saturdays at 11 am and 1 pm. Tours are 45-minute overviews of the galleries and are free with admission
Reservations not required
Group Tours: Private docent-led tours of the museum are available for groups of 10 or more. Group tours must be scheduled at least four weeks in advance.
Adult group rates: $15 for adults; $10 for seniors (65+) and college students; $4 for schools.
Special event space is available.
Parking is available on floors 3 – 4. $2 per hour, $15 maximum per day. Currently cash only.
For more information, go to