Michele Tuegel, one of the driving forces that brought the Florida Craftsman Gallery (now Florida Craft Art) to St. Pete's Central Avenue in the mid-eighties — well before people actually considered downtown St. Pete "trendy" or "fun" or even "safe" — will close her gallery, Michele Tuegel Contemporary, by the end of the month.
Friday morning Tuegel told CL Tampa several factors played into her decision, from timing to imminent construction on St. Pete's soon-to-be-demolished "cheese grater" building.
"My lease was up, so I needed to think hard about renewing my lease for several years," Tuegel said, adding the decision was also "a little bit about my location."
The 300 block of Central, Tuegel said, had morphed into a destination that made parking difficult.
Finally, work to replace the Pheil, or cheese grater, building, will start soon, and that, Tuegel feared, would hurt business.
"That construction is going to be the next three years and it's a third of a block away from me," Tuegel said. "I was looking at three years and 'could this be profitable?'"
Tuegel says she has no plans to move her gallery. Instead, she will sell both inventory and fixtures starting Aug. 13. and focus on other art ventures, which won't surprise anyone familiar with St. Pete's art scene. After all, Tuegel's faith in downtown St. Pete and determination to revitalize it culturally has deep roots, including serving as the first executive director of the Florida Craftsman Gallery.
“I am proud of what has been accomplished these past four years and am most proud of the artists and the quality of work I’ve had the privilege to represent,” Tuegel said. “I am grateful to my loyal customers, collectors, and to those who trusted their own aesthetic to purchase artwork here, for their home or office environment. My dedication to artists, art lovers, fine design and arts education will never wane, and I look forward to what the future holds.”
Meanwhile, over at Florida Craft Art, current executive director Diane Shelly will leave her post and head north to Dunedin Fine Art Center, to work as the adult education director. Shelly has a background in education, specifically art education for adults. She took the position at DFAC to return, she said, to her roots.
"I have been in education all my life, and I really miss it," she said. "As much as I have enjoyed the years I have been here, it just doesn't involve education. I would like to get back into it; it seemed right for me and the organization [Florida Craft Art]. We've matured a lot. Now they have an opportunity; now the position needs to be much more involved in fundraising, strategic planning and budgeting. They're fine-tuning the kind of person they're looking for. I just think it's a great time for the organization to put somebody like that in place.'
Although Shelly's final day at Florida Craft Art will be Aug. 24 (she'll start at DFAC on Aug. 29), she said she would remain involved with SHINE, namely painting the intersection of Central and 5th St. (outside Florida Craft Art) as part of the SHINE kickoff on Sept. 1.
"That's my baby," she said.