Did you know that St. Pete has a chess club? If not, you’re not alone. It’s been around, in the same building, since 1931.
Redington Shores artist Jackie Kaufman hadn’t thought much about chess either. That was until one of her students at The Beach Art Center in Indian Rocks Beach brought it up. Kaufman was teaching a workshop on mold making and pewter casting when one of her students mentioned that this would be a good process for creating individual chess pieces. Kaufman liked the idea, but she didn’t want to create an entire chess set by herself, so she started looking for collaborators.
“Initially I wanted to find a school that had a chess club,” Kaufman told The Gabber.
That was until she found out about the Saint Petersburg Chess Club.
“I had never heard of them before,” says Kaufman, “and it turns out, I was not the only one…”
Kaufman hatched a plan. She would teach the chess club members to create a chess set to promote their club. She set up a meeting with Saint Petersburg Chess Club President, Timotey Gospodinov, and told him her idea.
“This was my first time at the chess club,” Kaufman told The Gabber, “and what I saw there made my idea, and this project, very special. It was late Friday afternoon, and people of all ages were flowing in to just play chess. Some seemed to know each other, but some were strangers… I was so intrigued that a place like this was here and so active.”
Kaufman convinced nine chess club members to participate in her Chess Club project. They each completed a single chess piece during a two-day workshop in June. Then Kaufman enlisted another Kaufman – her son, St. Petersburg artist Alex Kaufman — to make the board. Alex designed the 23-by-23-inch board, made from aluminum and glass, with a blue and white checkered pattern.
Then Jackie started looking for places to display the completed chess set.
“Jackie approached me about her Chess Club project a few months ago,” the Morean Arts Center’s Chief Curator, Amanda Cooper, told The Gabber. “I loved the concept, and the fact that it was bringing attention to this old establishment which happens to be a stone’s throw from the Morean. I was also drawn to the connection between chess and art – neither of these things sees age or ability boundaries – they are there for everyone to learn and enjoy.”
The only thing left was for Cooper to find a context in which to display the board. Thus, the idea for a checker-themed art show was born. The exhibition takes place in the Morean’s pop-up gallery, a small space Cooper reserves for last-minute ideas like this. Main gallery shows like the concurrent Tes One Retrospective, Good Intentions, are planned at least a year ahead of time.
Checkered includes checkerboard-inspired work from 23 artists, but the centerpiece of the exhibition is Kaufman and the St. Petersburg Chess Club’s chess set.
“Jackie’s vision and chess board turned out great, and I can’t wait for our visitors to see it!” says Cooper.
‘Checkered’ The Morean Arts Center, 719 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Opening reception: Sept. 10, 5-8 p.m. Through Oct. 31: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. moreanartscenter.org