Artful Reading: Museum Book Clubs.

Love to read? Love to look at art? Seven local art venues — five museums, an artist collective and an exhibition space for visual and performing arts — all host ongoing reading clubs. All but one is open to the general public.

Each club has its own personality.   

The Literary Salon at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, open only to its Guild members, has been reading books by and about Dalí and the art world he inhabited since 2012.  The Short Prose Club, which began meeting at the art collective Venus St. Pete in August, reads short stories rather than full-length books,

The James Museum book club in downtown St. Petersburg reads books set in the American West. The ABC Club at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs reads books on 20th and 21st century art. The Kitchen Table Book Club at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum in St. Petersburg’s Midtown reads female black authors.

Throughout 2020 the Book Club @ The MFA on St. Petersburg’s Beach Drive will be reading books about the women’s suffrage movement. The Keep St. Pete Lit Book Club, which had been meeting at the MFA for the past four years, is moving in 2020 to The Studio @620. A home to visual and performing arts, The Studio is the latest space to mix literature with the art on its walls.

 

READING WEST

The James Museum book club, launched five months after the museum opened in downtown St. Petersburg in 2018, reflects the eclectic collection of cowboy, Native American and wildlife art on display.  The club’s menu of titles has run the gamut of genres, from mysteries to memoirs, from histories to classic fiction, beginning with Michael Crichton’s Dragon Teeth, a novel about two 19th century paleontologists — but the settings are always the American West, from Alaska to Texas.

The group has read stories by Native Americans (Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diet of a Part-Time Indian and Linda Hogan’s Power), by historians (Rinker Buck’s The Oregon Train and David Trekker’s The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present) and by a woman rancher (Elinore Pruitt Stewart’s Letters of a Woman Homesteader). There have been stories of wildlife (Nevada Barr’s Track of the Cat and Dan Flores’ American Serengeti) and stories of men in the Wild West (Landon Y. Jones’ The Essential Lewis and Clark).

During the museum’s special exhibition of Edward Curtis’ photographs of Native American tribes, the group read Timothy Egan’s Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis.

The discussions are led by Helen Huntley, a docent at the museum, who provides a short PowerPoint presentation at each meeting that puts the book in geographic and historical context.

On January 16 the group will discuss Hearts of the Missing by Carol Potenza, a mystery set among the Pueblo people of New Mexico to coincide with the museum’s latest special exhibit: the copper plate etchings of Santa Clara Pueblo artist Helen Hardin.

 

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