Setting an example for arts and education in Tampa Bay

This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.

Two very different events on either side 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 has announced the resignation of Laura Hine, the museum’s executive director. She plans to stay through the spring as needed while the Museum Board conducts a national search for her successor.

It is not often that a CEO’s resignation represents a step forward. What is different here is Heine’s motive. Elected in 2020 to the Pinellas County School Board, Hayne is leaving Museum to devote her energies full-time to public education and the public sphere. “I care a lot about where we are as voters, in the state and the country when it comes to our elections and the work of our elected leaders,” she told The Times’ Maggie Duffy this month.

While a school board job could indeed be a full-time job, Hayne said she wants to get out more in the community and listen to her constituents. While describing her departure as bitter, Hayne, who began her involvement with the museum in 2015, said James is ready for a next-phase leader who can take a strong foundation and move the museum and the larger arts community in St. Pete toward a brighter future.

Meanwhile, across the bay, the Tampa Museum of Art has received several large gifts. Jorge M. Perez, founder and president of Miami-based developer The Related Group, donated a grant to Colombian artist Fernando Botero and $1 million toward the museum’s art education and studio art programming.

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

The statue will, of course, enhance the museum’s collection. And just as important, though, is another notch in the relationship between the Related Group and Tampa. The company has several projects in Tampa, and Perez said the city’s support encourages him to return the favor. It’s saying something when a leader from a dynamic Florida city sees something special in Tampa Bay. Related is committed to integrating art into its projects, and Perez says he looks forward to further enriching the Tampa art scene, especially helping children from “less fortunate backgrounds” grow out of the art and culture experience.

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

Perez’s confidence in Tampa Bay is also a point of pride, and the tool he chooses to promote it — through art and education — is doubly good, both of which have a generational influence. These are inspiring stories that we can’t afford to miss this busy holiday season.

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Editorials is the corporate voice of the Tampa Bay Times. Members of the editorial board are Editorial Editor Graham Brink, Sherry Day, Sebastian Dortsch, John Hill, Jim Verholst, and Chairman and CEO Conan Galati. Follow @employee On Twitter for more opinion news.

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