The Suntan Art Center is a fixture in St. Pete Beach. The nonprofit, located at 3300 Gulf Blvd. in the shadow of the Don Cesar Hotel, has supported local artists for 50 years, offering art exhibits, classes in art and wellness and a place for artists to sell their work.
Like so many other businesses and organizations this year, Suntan had to get creative and find a way to support their member artists.
“We have over 300 members and our numbers continue to grow,” said Ed McHale, the art center’s executive director.
Classes were canceled and the center closed on March 17. Community events, such as the popular Art Splash 2020 scheduled for later in the month, were called off.
The Craftsmen Gallery, the on-premises retail art gallery, had a socially distanced reopening on June 4. The gallery was open four, sometimes five, days per week, Wednesday through Sunday depending on volunteer staffing. The shop offered a wide array of art for sale by member artists, and gallery volunteers were masked.
“The most important reason was to support our members. By far the most salient reason to be open and serve our local community is our proven ability to provide a creative and supportive venue for our artists, art students and senior learners,” said McHale.
The center also decided to take it outside. On June 27, the Suntan Art Mart returned to the patio next to the Paradise Grille at 900 Gulf Way, Pass-A-Grille Beach.
Yet due to an increase in COVID cases, both the Craftsmen Gallery and the Art Mart closed again July 11 until further notice. All classes remain canceled.
“We have temporarily re-closed both the gallery and the Art Mart at Pass-A-Grille due to the COVID spike,” said McHale. “We hold the safety of our members as paramount. We hope this is short-lived.”