When you walk up to this newly-opened space, a large neon sign welcomes you to the Mermaid Star Motel. But don’t let the name fool you—this is no ordinary roadside inn. The 15,000-square-foot space in the Warehouse Arts District of St. Pete isn’t a motel at all, but rather a massive interactive art exhibit.
The fictional Mermaid Star Motel is at the heart of Fairgrounds St. Pete’s inaugural exhibition. Located inside a former factory, the space is split into a series of rooms, each designed and decorated in a unique style that reflects different aspects of Florida. More than 60 local artists contributed to the experience.
A display labeled “Local Distractions” in the motel lobby is filled with brochures for fictional tourist attractions. In the Mermaid Dressing Room, the walls are covered with intricate seashell designs, and jewelry made from shells is laid out across the vanity. In the Lampscape Room, colorful lights and carefully-placed mirrors make it seem like the walls have disappeared.
There’s even a “pool,” designed by artist Matthew Campbell. It has all the accouterment you would expect from a motel pool—except the water. Instead, a projector suspended from the ceiling displays a video of blue water with pool toys floating across its surface.
Fairgrounds St. Pete was created by Liz Dimmitt and Mikhail Mansion and is one part of a bigger project that they call The Factory. Even as the space grows and changes, it aims to live up to a bold mission statement: “art for all, play for all, and joy for all.”
Know Before You Go
Timed tickets are required for entry and can be purchased at the Fairgrounds website. Tickets are $27 for ages 13+, $22 for children ages 4-12, and free for children under 4.