Florida Craftsmen is a statewide non-profit organization headquartered in St. Petersburg, FL.
Its mission is to:
Empower the Fine Craft Artists of Florida,
Enrich the Community & Engage the Next Generation
Fine craft art is presented in the 2000 sf retail gallery as well as in the similarly sized exhibition gallery. On the second floor of its building are 18 artists’ studios and a classroom where workshops designed to educate artists in the Business of Art are held.
Florida Craftsmen’s premier event is CraftArt, a 2 day outdoor fine craft festival held during the week before Thanksgiving. Central Avenue and 5th Street are closed to traffic as over 100 artists offer their finest work. This event is attended annually by over 20,000 people.
Florida Craftsmen was originally organized by Louis and Elsa Freund, professors at Stetson University in Deland, FL 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 Craftsmen 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 Craftsmen 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 Craftsmen 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 Craftsmen made a bold move and bought the building which now houses a 2000 sf. 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. Florida Craftsmen now finds itself in the heart of the Central Arts District surrounded by cutting edge galleries and great restaurants.