There's plenty of "Pride & Passion" at the new Tampa Museum of Art

was held four years ago in connection with two exhibits then on display: “Keith Haring: Art & Commerce, A Tribute to the Pop Shop,” and the “Family Values Portrait Project.”


Reinforcing the event’s theme of diversity this year, the recently opened Jesper Just: Romantic Delusions features works by Danish filmmaker Jesper Just in the MacKechnie Gallery, as well as recent works by avante garde LED artist Leo Villareal, and preexisting exhibitions of street photographer Gary Winogrand, works from the Bank of America Collection, selections from the Martin Z. Margulles Foundation, and works from the museum’s renowned permanent antiquities collection. Romantic Delusions is supported by proceeds from last year’s event.


This is the second Pride & Passion TMA has hosted since hiring Todd Smith who, in a 2008 interview with Times reporter Lennie Bennett, said that one of his main objectives as Director was defining “what this museum can be for the community.” Smith said in an e-mail recently that “The museum (and the entire arts community for that matter) has long recognized the importance of the GLBT community and their supporters and friends to the overall strength and success of our organization,” calling the museum the “premiere cultural partner organization in the region.”


Since opening its doors in February, museum membership has climbed the highest it’s been in 30 years, Smith says, adding, “we see the event as another way to engage more individuals in supporting our mission.”


This is welcome news for a museum whose renovation took ten years and $33 million to build amid passionate debates, leadership changes and a falling economy. Plans for the new building began circulating in 2002, when the public had all but forgotten that the museum could be anything more than a waterfront eyesore.


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The new facility is a study in modern architecture, spanning the length of Curtis Hixon park from Ashley Drive to the Hillsborough River, encapsulated by a perforated metal exterior that illuminates the river at night in dazzling, rainbow LED lights. Inside, one can imagine what it might be like to stand inside a curiously cool microwave oven – a far cry from the ho-hum concrete monolith the museum once occupied.


Designed by Stanley Saitowitz of San Francisco’s Natoma Architects, the new Tampa Museum is a symbol of Tampa’s step forward as a cultural destination – a fixture in a city that has long been wanting for a real visual and civic confirmation of its identity.


Volleying Tampa’s need for a visual symbol, glass artist Duncan McClellan, who recently won “Best in Show” at St. Petersburg’s Mainsail Arts Festival, has donated a large, red vase to be raffled at this year’s Pride & Passion. Valued at $1,000, “Men-A-Morphosis” seems to play against the museum’s formidable collection of Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities with its pattern of figures surrounding in various poses, which the artist says are “contemporary and personal” symbols of joy, courage, energy and determination – appropriate themes in the context of TMA’s recent rise from obscurity.


McClellan recently moved his studio, until now located in Tampa, into a warehouse near the St. Petersburg Clay Company train station in Midtown, but plans to continue supporting the arts in Tampa: “I‘ve always had ties with the Tampa Museum,” says McClelland, who has work in the permanent collection. “I feel very much part of that community there [in Tampa]. I still have a townhouse there, my existing studio is still in Tampa.”


The $75 Pride & Passion ticket price includes the cost of the raffle and one year of individual museum membership, as well as hors d’oeuvres, complimentary beverages, full gallery access and live entertainment throughout the evening. Chris Martinez, of ABC Action News, is the evening’s emcee. Register for the event online at http://www.tampamuseum.org/events/pride-passion-2010.

The long-suffering Tampa Museum of Art has enjoyed many “firsts” over these last few years. They welcomed a new Director, Todd Smith, in 2008; opened the doors of a brand new, state-of-the-art facility on the banks of the Hillsborough River this past February; and this Friday will host their fifth annual Pride & Passion event for the first time in their new home.

An unofficial “kick-off” to the Bay Area’s June Gay Pride Month, Pride & Passion is designed to engage current and new members with the museum and raise funds for museum exhibitions, combining dinner from Bern’s and Sidebern’s with entertainment in the museum’s main atrium by DJs Dino Bonetti and Coro, and performance artist Gianna Love performing in the evening. Other area Gay Pride Month events include Orlando Gay Days (June 1-7), the St. Pete Pride Street Festival and Promenade (June 26).

Designed as an outreach to the GLBT community, the first Pride & Passion

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