Museums are filled with treasured works of art that may be part of a permanent collection, on tour as traveling exhibits or selected pieces on loan from private collections. While the paintings, sculptures, photographs or art installations may be quite valuable - possibly even priceless - admissions to most museums will still set you back a few bucks and put a strain on your budget. Fortunately, on select days and in various ways, some Tampa Bay art museums make it possible for anyone to be a patron of the arts at a low cost or for a pay-what-you-want donation.

Of course, the savings may be offset by using those freed up funds to purchase jewelry, books about art and artists, educational toys or handmade crafts at museum stores. You could also invest in an artfully prepared meal at an on-site cafe at the museum. Even if your budget won’t allow you to acquire art, these are some of the best museums in Tampa Bay, and ones that make it more affordable to admire art.

Museum of Fine Arts

This stately museum has played a vital role in St. Petersburg’s designation as a top arts destination for mid-sized cities. Since opening more than 50 years ago, it has distinguished itself not only as a landmark, but also as the “only comprehensive art collection of its kind, extending from antiquity to the present,” on Florida’s West Coast. In addition to its permanent collection of more than 20,000 pieces, encompassing works by such illustrious artists as Monet, Rodin, O’Keefe and Andrew Wyeth, this downtown St. Petersburg museum also welcomes world-class exhibitions throughout the year.

What’s the deal? Thursday night admission is $5 after 5 p.m. The museum is open until 8 p.m. Thursdays.

The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art

This newcomer to the DTSP cultural scene is now the permanent home to nearly 400 premier works of art that local residents, and well-known philanthropists, Tom and Mary James acquired over the past 50 years. That total represents just a fraction of the more than 3,000 pieces that comprise the couple’s complete collection. The featured pieces provide art lovers with an opportunity to view art that was not easily accessible to the public, until now. Within the 30,000-square-foot gallery, visitors will discover original art depicting the Western U.S. as well as wildlife from around the world. Stunning jewelry, spectacular sculptures, large landscapes and vivid paintings are among the elements exhibited.

What’s the deal? Tuesday’s, from 5-8 p.m., admission is $5.



Salvador Dali Museum

Located in a venue that is as distinctive as the works of the celebrated artist, Salvador Dali, visitors to the Dali Museum will view works representing the entire range of a career that spanned 80-plus years. That translates to more than 2,100 paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and other creative outlets displayed in these galleries. The community has the collective minds of Reynolds and Eleanor Morse to thank for making Dali’s work feel so at home in St. Petersburg. 

When the Morse's decided it was time to donate their collection, the search for a suitable site lead to St. Petersburg. What began with the purchase of one painting in 1943, evolved into what was considered to be the preeminent collection of Dali’s work in the U.S. It's long been considered one of the best museums in Tampa Bay, and can compete with any art installation across the planet.

What’s the deal? After 5 p.m. on Thursdays, admission is reduced to $10 for adults, seniors and students and $8 for children, ages 6-12. The museum is open until 8 p.m. Thursdays.

Tampa Museum of Art

Downtown Tampa’s riverfront museum is easily identifiable by its sleek, silver-skinned exterior of perforated aluminum that creates ever-changing patterns throughout the day. The facade even incorporates lights at night, making the museum itself an animated artwork. The museum's lower level hosts the popular Soho Cafe and store. The second floor of this 66,000-square-foot museum boasts an impressive collection of Greek and Roman antiquities. Temporary exhibits can range from, folk art to contemporary photography and designer fashions to innovative new media.

What’s the deal? Art on the House on Thursday evenings, from 4 – 8 pm., allows for a pay-as-you-will admission.

Want to know where to go to see special art exhibits, masterpieces or avant-garde art throughout the Tampa Bay area? Simply register at 813Area or 727Area. It's easy and free!