Setting an example for arts and education in Tampa Bay | Editorial

Two very different happenings on opposite sides of Tampa Bay show the growing strength of the arts and civic investment across the region.

In St. Petersburg, The James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art announced that Laura Hine, the museum’s executive director, is resigning. She plans to remain through the spring as needed while the museum board conducts a national search for her successor.

It’s not everyday that the resignation of a chief executive marks a step forward. What’s different here is Hine’s motivation. Elected in 2020 to the Pinellas County School Board, Hine is leaving the museum to dedicate her energies full time to public education and the public sphere. “I care very much about where we are as an electorate, in the state and country when it comes to our elections and the work of our elected leaders,” she told the Times’ Maggie Duffy this month.

While the school board post already can be a full-time job, Hine said she wants to get out more in the community and hear from her constituents. And while Hine, who began her involvement with the museum in 2015, called her departure bittersweet, she said the James is ready for a next-phase leader who can take a strong foundation and move the museum and St. Pete’s larger arts community toward a brighter future.

Meanwhile, across the bay, the Tampa Museum of Art has landed several big gifts. Jorge M. Pérez, founder and chairman of a Miami-based developer, the Related Group, has donated a sculpture by Colombian artist Fernando Botero and $1 million toward the museum’s art education and studio art programming.

As the Times’ Duffy also describes, the piece, “Mujer Vestida” (or Dressed Woman), was perched at the Ritz-Carlton Residences on Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard before being removed in preparation for Hurricane Ian. The 8-foot-tall bronze sculpture is part of Related Group’s extensive art collection; it’s undergoing maintenance in Miami before returning to the Ritz-Carlton and then its permanent home at the Tampa Museum of Art.

The sculpture, of course, will enhance the museum’s collection. As importantly, though, it represents another notch in the relationship between the Related Group and Tampa. The company has many projects in Tampa, and Perez said the city’s support emboldens him to give back. It says something when a leader from a dynamic city in Florida sees something special in Tampa Bay. Related is committed to incorporating art into its projects, and Perez says he’s looking forward to further enriching Tampa’s arts scene, and particularly helping children from “less fortunate backgrounds” grow from the experience with art and culture.

It’s people and decisions like these that enable communities to make great leaps forward. Hine’s contributions have helped the James establish itself as a signature destination. But there is a lesson in her thinking that the museum and the schools both deserve the attention of a full-time caretaker. And we certainly welcome her interest in improving the state of America’s civic environment. Our democracy needs fewer arsonists and more engineers, and Hine’s example is how you get there.

Perez’s confidence in Tampa Bay is also a point of pride, and the vehicle he’s choosing to promote it — through art and education — is doubly good, for both have generational impact. These are inspiring stories that we cannot overlook this busy holiday season.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.