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Arts highlights of the decade

Gains and losses to area arts

2005: Financier and philanthropist William R. Hough gives a large gift (amount undisclosed) to the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg for a proposed new wing. It will be named in honor of his wife, Hazel Hough, a longtime museum supporter.

2005: Beth Morean, philanthropist, artist and major donor to the Arts Center in St. Petersburg, pledges $10.2 million for a planned expansion. The organization will be renamed the Morean Arts Center.

2006: Dr. Helga Wall-Apelt promises her rare collection of Asian art to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art along with $4 million to renovate an old wing to house it and $4 million for endowment.

2008: Robert Rauschenberg, one of the great artists of the late 20th century and a longtime Florida resident, dies at his home on May 12. He was 82.

2008: Leaders of the Gulf Coast Museum of Art in Largo announce it will close permanently on Jan. 30, 2009, citing low attendance and a dwindling endowment. It opened in 1936 as the Belleair Arts Center and moved to Largo in 1999 as the Gulf Coast Museum. In February 2009, the museum announces a deal with St. Petersburg College to transfer ownership of the permanent collection to the college's foundation and keep it intact.

2009: The Aripeka home and studio of James Rosenquist, an internationally famous artist, burn to the ground, destroying millions of dollars of new work, most of his archives and many personal possessions.

2009: Dick and Cornelia Corbett pledge a total of $5 million to the new Tampa Museum of Art, its largest individual contribution. The museum's facility will be named the Cornelia Corbett Center in her honor.

Lennie Bennett

Comings and goings in the arts

2001: Michael Milkovich retires from the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg.

• John Wetenhall is named director of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota.

• Marshall Rousseau retires from the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg.

• Charles D. "Hank" Hine III is named director of the Dali Museum.

• John Schloder is named director of the Museum of Fine Arts.

2005: Emily Kass resigns as director of the Tampa Museum of Art.

• Ken Rollins resigns as director of the Gulf Coast Museum of Art to become interim director of the Tampa Museum of Art.

• Michelle Turman is named director of the Gulf Coast Museum of Art.

2006: Joanne Milani is named director of the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, formerly the Tampa Gallery of Photographic Arts.

2008: Ken Rollins retires from the Tampa Museum of Art.

2009: Todd Smith is named director of the Tampa Museum of Art.

• John Wetenhall resigns from the Ringling Museum.

• Marshall Rousseau is named interim director of the Ringling Museum.

• John Schloder announces his retirement from the Museum of Fine Arts in July 2010.

Lennie Bennett

Performance snapshots

Playing for pinecones: Russian violin virtuoso Maxim Vengerov gave a recital in 2002 at a packed Palladium Theater because of his devotion to a health-food supplement containing pinecone extract developed by the Tampa Bay Research Institute in St. Petersburg.

Cirque soars: In 2002, Quidam was the first of three amazing Cirque du Soleil extravaganzas to be performed under the blue and yellow big top erected in the parking lot of Tropicana Field.

Crossover: The Florida Orchestra showed how to marry classical and pop music in a clever program with the lounge band Pink Martini in 2006.

No more Shakespeare in the park: American Stage stopped doing strictly Shakespeare in its park shows with a production of the musical Crowns in 2006.

Opera and popcorn: Starting with Mozart's The Magic Flute in 2006, the Metropolitan Opera's live, high-definition simulcasts of Saturday matinees drew crowds to mall movie theaters.

The vanishing symphony orchestra: The seasons when four or five major orchestras on tour would play the Tampa Bay area are long gone. A last hurrah: the Cleveland Orchestra at Mahaffey Theater in 2008.

Shostakovich rules: Stefan Sanderling's family connection — his conductor father, Kurt Sanderling, had close ties to the Russian composer — has inspired memorable performances by the Florida Orchestra. One of the best: Karen Gomyo in Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto last May.

Whither Mahaffey? St. Petersburg's Mahaffey Theater continued to wander in the performing arts wilderness. In September, its Broadway series pulled the plug after two years of lackluster programming and woeful attendance.

Big money: In November, David A. Straz Jr., a retired banker, gave the largest single gift ever to a Tampa Bay cultural institution — an estimated $25 million — and the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center was renamed for him.

Broadway: With its production of Wonderland, the Straz Center consolidated its standing as a leading Broadway presenter. The decade's best road shows: The Lion King, Wicked, Jersey Boys, The Drowsy Chaperone and Doubt with Cherry Jones as Sister Aloysius.

John Fleming

Top performances

Adagio for Strings, 2001: Never has the Florida Orchestra played a more meaningful piece than when it opened the 2001-02 season with Samuel Barber's keening lament 10 days after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Sacco & Vanzetti, 2001: Opera Tampa premiered the opera on the famous murder trial by Anton Coppola, who conducted.

Surfer at the River Styx, 2002: Twyla Tharp's stunning, apocalyptic dance to a percussive score by Donald Knaack, with the brilliant John Selya hanging 10 at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

The Bomb-itty of Errors, 2002: American Stage combined rap and Shakespeare in a park production that went from Demens Landing to the West End theater district of London.

The Last Five Years, 2006: Gorilla Theatre showed how to do small-scale musical theater with Jason Robert Brown's song cycle on love, marriage and divorce.

Visions of Light, 2007: Richard Zielinski led the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay in Richard Einhorn's oratorio to a screening of the classic silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc at Mahaffey Theater.

August Wilson, 2007-2009: American Stage embarked on the African-American playwright's Century Cycle. Fences set an attendance record this year.

The Wild Party, 2008: Michael John LaChiusa's musical was the riveting debut of freeFall Theatre Company at Studio@620.

Yo-Yo Ma, 2004, 2009: The great cellist covered the stylistic waterfront in two Ruth Eckerd Hall concerts, one in the world music of the Silk Road Ensemble, the other in Bach.

Wonderland, 2009: Frank Wildhorn's new musical was given a razzle-dazzle staging by the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

John Fleming

Most challenged books

These books made the most appearances on the list of banned books compiled by the American Library Association during the decade.

1 The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier, with six appearances

2 (Three-way tie, with four appearances each) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; the 24-book Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

3 (Six-way tie, with three appearances each) It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris; Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers; the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey; And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell; the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Colette Bancroft

Most memorable books

These are the books that stuck with me the most, for various reasons — not necessarily the best books of the past 10 years (though some are), but the ones that made the deepest impression on me.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

The Good Soldiers by David Finkel

Returning to Earth by Jim Harrison

Lisey's Story by Stephen King

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Mystic River by Dennis Lehane

Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

The Early Stories by John Updike

And four series that always satisfied throughout the decade: Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie novels, Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch books, Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins series, and of course (drumroll) the Harry Potter books.

Colette Bancroft

Arrivals and departures in the performing arts

2001: Composer, pianist and USF professor Robert Helps, one of the Tampa Bay area's most renowned musicians, dies at 73.

2003: Todd Olson makes his debut as artistic director of American Stage by staging Stones in His Pockets, a comedy by Marie Jones.

2003: Stefan Sanderling begins his tenure as Florida Orchestra music director with an all-Russian program of Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff (Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, with pianist Vladimir Feltsman as the soloist) and Stravinsky's Firebird suite.

2004: Bob Devin Jones and Dave Ellis open the Studio@620, a gallery and performance space that made a significant contribution to downtown St. Petersburg's renaissance as an arts center.

2005: Ann Reinking steps down as head of the Broadway Theatre Project, which she founded in Tampa in 1991. Now run by Debra McWaters, the summer theater education program workshopped Wonderland.

2005: Skitch Henderson, longtime pops music director of the Florida Orchestra, dies at 87.

2006: Ruth Eckerd, namesake of the Clearwater performing arts hall, dies at 84.

2007: Michael Pastreich becomes president of the Florida Orchestra.

2009: Susan Hussey, playwright and co-founder of Tampa's Gorilla Theatre, dies at 54.

2009: Carl Kuttler retires as president of St. Petersburg College. Under him, the school became an important patron of the arts, developing its renovated Music Center, Palladium Theater, American Stage's Raymond James Theater and offices and the Florida Orchestra's offices.

John Fleming

Arts highlights of the decade 12/26/09 [Last modified: Saturday, December 26, 2009 3:30am]
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