Home is Where the Art Is
Local Glass Artist Duncan McClellan
Duncan McClellan is running around with no shoes again in his fabulous glass gallery. It’s the day before St. Petersburg’s monthly Gallery Walk when he’ll be unveiling a new collaborative piece, and the place is buzzing with helpers setting up new exhibits and photographers who have come to do a photo spread. He waves and rushes over in his usual t-shirt, shorts and, yes, bare feet.
Here in a low-income, industrial neighborhood just southwest of downtown St. Petersburg, McClellan has transformed a former 7,800-square-foot tomato packing factory into a massive art gallery and studio. Duncan McClellan Glass Gallery is also his home, hence the casual attire, welcoming hugs and bare feet.
At 56, Duncan McClellan has achieved national acclaim for his exquisite glass art, particularly his large vases and discs featuring elaborate designs and patterns from Greek mythology to intricate florals, birds and trees. His pieces are produced in mostly signature gem tones of ruby red, emerald green, cobalt blue, and amber, with designs that are precisely etched, sandblown, cut and layered. Duncan McClellan glass can be found in museums, corporate and private art collections, in luxury hotels, on cruise ships, and in select galleries across the country. The Tom and Mary James/Raymond James Financial Art Collection, one of Florida’s largest private art collections, has 18 of his pieces.
Moving Across the Bay
McClellan moved to his current digs two years ago after more than two decades of working and living near downtown Tampa. He feels that the art community in St. Petersburg is growing into a vibrant network of talent and wants to be a part of nurturing and sustaining it. Along with his own glass, he regularly exhibits work from up to 15 local, national and international artists which can be seen during the St. Petersburg Second Saturday Gallery Walks. That’s when he rolls open the wide garage doors and lets the public in for a casual soiree. Typically up to two dozen local art galleries, studios, lofts and museums stay open late during Gallery Walks, allowing the artists an opportunity to show their work and meet the public in a social setting.
“One of my missions has always been for my gallery to support both emerging artists and established artists who may not be getting the recognition they need,” says McClellan. “I think St. Petersburg has a wealth of talented artists, and I want to bring in more.”
Jeff Schorr, head of the Downtown Arts Association, feels McClellan’s move to St. Petersburg is a boon for the community.
“He could have moved into the Beach Drive district, but he decided to move into a struggling neighborhood, which I admire,” says Schorr, who is co-owner of the nearby Craftsman House Gallery. “We had some good galleries before, but to have an acclaimed glass artist the caliber of Duncan here was the next step. He has definitely brought in a lot of people to the Gallery Walks that might not normally have come.”
McClellan said the city of St. Petersburg was very supportive of his move.
“They understand the importance of art and incentives to bring businesses to old neighborhoods,” he says. “They know that bringing a few key artists to an old neighborhood can help revitalize it, that when people come, restaurants will open and more people will come. “
Designed for Entertaining
And come they do. McClellan supports the local arts and non-profit organizations by hosting social events and fundraisers throughout the year. He also has a reputation as a gracious entertainer himself. The spacious avocado-green warehouse was designed with socializing in mind, offering an industrial yet elegant ambiance from the art-filled gallery space to an open living area and two large patios complete with lush landscaping and seating. There are two kitchens – one for caterers and one private – and only his bedroom is off limits behind a locked door.
In his living area, a large sectional sofa sits in front of a gas fireplace and next to a glass-enclosed rain shower. Yes, a shower. Big enough for a party of its own, the shower’s glass walls are etched in figures portraying the Greek story of Icarus.
“It’s a showpiece for home designers and architects,” McClellan says off the cuff. Indeed, his glass art can be incorporated into both interior and exterior furnishings, including metal and stone sculptures, fountains, gates, windows and doors. Just look around the premises and you’ll find examples.
Along one side of the building is McClellan’s half-acre tropical garden, filled with fruit trees ranging from pomegranates and lychee to fig, guavas, mangoes, avocados and kumquat. It’s also an exhibit space for two 6-foot metal dog sculptures by Massachusetts sculptor Dale Rogers, whose sculptures are also displayed in the patio areas.
Despite his celebrity status in the glass art world, the diminutive artist seems to be unphased. Most who know him regard McClellan as hard-working and humble, a generous supporter of the arts and artists – and an entertainer extraordinaire.
by Marcia Biggs for Destination Tampa Bat Magazine