How a Chess Set Became an Art Exhibit in St. Pete

Chess set made by St. Petersburg Chess Club members Jackie Kaufman and St. Petersburg artist Alex Kaufman.
Jackie Kaufman

Did you know that St. Pete has a chess club? If not, you are not alone. It has existed in the same building since 1931.

Redington Shores artist Jackie Kaufman hadn’t thought much about chess either. That was until one of his students at the Beach Art Center in Indian Rocks Beach mentioned it. Kaufman was teaching a workshop on mold making and pewter casting when one of his students mentioned that it would be a good process for creating individual chess pieces. Kaufman liked the idea, but she didn’t want to create a complete chess set herself, so she started looking for collaborators.

“I originally wanted to find a school that had a chess club,” Kaufman told The Gabber.

That was until she discovered the St. Petersburg Chess Club.

“I had never heard of them before,” Kaufman says, “and it turns out I wasn’t the only one…”

Kaufman hatched a plan. She would teach chess club members to create a chess set to promote their club. She arranged a meeting with the president of the St. Petersburg Chess Club, Timotey Gospodinov, and told him about her idea.

“It was my first time at the chess club,” Kaufman told The Gabber, “and what I saw there made my idea and this project very special. noon, and people of all ages flocked to play chess, some seemed to know each other, but some were strangers… I was so intrigued that a place like this was here and so active.

Kaufman convinced nine chess club members to participate in his Chess Club project. They each completed a single chess piece during a two-day workshop in June. Then Kaufman enlisted another Kaufman – his son, St. Petersburg artist Alex Kaufman – to make the board. Alex designed the 23-inch by 23-inch board, made of aluminum and glass, with a blue and white checkered pattern.

Then Jackie started looking for places to display the finished chess set.

“Jackie approached me a few months ago about his Chess Club project,” Amanda Cooper, chief curator at the Morean Arts Center, told The Gabber. “I loved the concept, and the fact that it draws attention to this old establishment which happens to be a stone’s throw from the Morean. I was also drawn to the connection between chess and art – none of these things see the limits of age or ability – they are there for everyone to learn and have fun with.

The only thing left for Cooper was to find a context in which to display the array. Thus, the idea of ​​a checkerboard-themed art exhibition was born. The exhibition takes place in Morean’s pop-up gallery, a small space that Cooper reserves for last-minute ideas like this. The main gallery shows like the concurrent Tes One retrospective, Good intentions, are planned at least one year in advance.

Checkered includes checkerboard-inspired works by 23 artists, but the centerpiece of the exhibit is Kaufman and the St. Petersburg Chess Club Chess Set.

“Jackie’s vision and chess board turned out great, and I can’t wait for our visitors to see it!” said Cooper.

‘Checkered’ The Morean Arts Center, 719 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Opening: Sept. 10, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. To Oct. 31: Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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