Passionate Design Now On View

This past weekend the Henry B. Plant Museum at Tampa University in Tampa, Florida, was pleased to open a new exhibit, Passionate Design: The American Arts & Crafts Movement. This exhibit brings together furniture, metalwork, block prints, pottery, and tiles made during the first two decades of the 20th century, a period of significant design reform throughout America — what those of you that follow us here at know intimately as the Arts & Crafts Movement.

This exhibition features works lent by Rudy Ciccarello and the Two Red Roses Foundation in Palm Harbor, Florida, a pre-eminent collection of decorative and fine art from the Arts & Crafts era. Objects on display include works by American icons such as Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Workshops, the Grueby Faience Company, Rookwood Pottery, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and other makers.

This particular collection of objects on view provides insight into an international impulse to sweep away the past and create a modern style for the new century. Inspired by nature, designers and artists rejected formality in favor of celebrating the curve of a leaf, the clarity of wood grain, the simple joy of children at play. Heavy embellishment and gilded surfaces were replaced with clean lines, non-precious materials, and organic form and color. Function and fine craftsmanship became integral to aesthetic choice. And above all, the restorative power of a simple home environment was emphasized over conspicuous consumption.

For those of you unfamiliar with this museum, the Henry B. Plant Museum is housed in the 1891 Tampa Bay Hotel, now a National Historic Landmark. During the 1880s, Henry Bradley Plant was building an empire of railroads, steamships and hotels. He wanted that empire to have a palace and that grand palace was the grand, Moorish Revival style Tampa Bay Hotel.

Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Museum interprets the turn-of-the-century Tampa Bay Hotel and the Victorian lifestyles of America’s Gilded Age for people of all ages, backgrounds, and levels of interest. Critical to the success of this mission is the restoration and preservation of this opulent 1891 railroad resort and the artifacts significant to its history and the life and work of Henry Bradley Plant. The Museum transports visitors through educational exhibits and events to the late Victorian period, the beginning of Florida’s tourist industry, and the early years of the City of Tampa.

This particular exhibit has been graciously underwritten by the international law firm of Greenberg Traurig; Betty Culbreath-Gibbons Memorial Contributions; and the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.

Passionate Design: The American Arts & Crafts Movement opened on March 20th and runs through December 31st, 2015. For more information about the Henry B. Plant Museum and the Tampa Bay Hotel, please visit

For more information on Rudy Ciccarello and the Two Red Roses Foundation, please visit

Photos courtesy of the Two Red Roses Foundation.

Top photo: “Swinging on the Maypole”. Woodblock print. Frances Gearhart, c. 1929. 8” high.

Bottom photo: Lidded jar with a design of conventionalized daisies. 1903. Designed and executed by Harriet (Hattie) Coulter Joor; potted by Joseph Fortune Meyer. Glazed earthenware. 7 ¾”. Newcomb Pottery, New Orleans.