Building up the arts

It has been said that art imitates life, but the opposite is the case when it comes to the Tampa Museum of Art’s (TMA) new building. For nearly 30 years the TMA has resided on Ashley Street in downtown Tampa. In 2009, it will move to a larger building with a riverside view.

The new building will be at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park adjacent to the previous location. It will be a state-of-the-art facility, designed to add to the cultural vibrancy of downtown Tampa.

San Fransican architect Stanley Saitowitz planned the 66,000-square-foot building so that it would take advantage of the museum’s urban setting and waterfront location. Thus, the main feature will be a sculpture court overlooking the river.

“The building should be a framework that allows art to be the center of the stage,” he said. The exterior of perforated metals will glimmer in the sunlight and be adorned with a system of continually moving LED lights.

The lights will be able to be customized by artists to give the building a new look, said Saitowitz.

Elaine D. Gustafson, director of exhibitions and collections, said that, with the additional space, social events at the museum could be held in areas away from the galleries, keeping the exhibits safe.

The museum’s board of trustees made the decision to replace the old building because of its limited size and disrepair. The new museum will have more space and use natural light to reduce the wattage needed to evenly light the exhibits, Gustafson said.

It will connect to the Glazer Children’s Museum, and have the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, John F. Germany Library and Tampa Theatre nearby, creating a kind of cultural center, said Meredith Elorfi, manager of marketing and communications for TMA.

Irineo Cabreros, a USF art teaching lab manager for 15 years, said he is relieved that the museum remained on the waterfront because the area is more eventful, especially during times like Gasparilla.

TMA will still offer events like youth summer camps and art programs as well as art activities for adults, such as Art Lover’s Tea, a seated gallery discussion.

Dawn Johnson, curator of education for TMA, said the new building would allow programs to be expanded to accommodate larger audiences and provide greater outreach to schools.

Project costs for the new facility, which is expected to be complete in April 2009, will total $32.8 million.

Tampa provided $18.5 million in Community Investment Tax funds to demolish the old building and construct the new museum. TMA is also holding a $25-million fundraising campaign to support the new facility.

Ariel Baron Robbins, a fine arts grad student at USF, said this is a better use of the city’s money than, for instance, funding a new stadium.

“There should be more money allocated for the arts,” she said.

TMA is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, at its interim location, 2306 N. Howard Ave; where there is still a full schedule of educational programs scheduled.

Additional reporting by Candace Kaw.