R. Lynn Whitelaw, founding director and chief curator of the Leepa-Rattner Museum, has decided to go. And to stay.
"I'm 62, and I really want to focus my energies on the curatorial side of the museum," he said, and so will turn over his director's hat and become the museum's first full-time curator. He'll remain at that post for no more than five years under the state's DROP plan for deferred retirement, he said.
"We hope that a new director will be hired to start in January," he said.
The museum, part of St. Petersburg College, opened in January 2002 on its Tarpon Springs campus. It was built to house a large collection of works by Abraham Rattner, a 20th century artist whose contemporaries (and friends) included Pablo Picasso and the writer Henry Miller. It also includes works by Allen Leepa, Rattner's stepson who donated most of the collection, Picasso, Marc Chagall, Henry Moore, Auguste Herbin, Hans Hoffman, George Roualt and Max Ernst. Subsequent gifts have brought the collection's total to about 6,000 objects.
Whitelaw, who as director was also responsible for many fundraising and development duties, will have time, he said, to focus on better organizing the museum's holdings, on planning a touring exhibition and publications and on getting accreditation with the American Association of Museums, a laborious process that can take at least four years but brings greater prestige to a museum and access to more touring exhibitions.
With a master's degree in art history, he began his career as an educator at colleges in Florida before getting involved in various arts-related endeavors. From 1990 to 1998, he was curator of education at Tampa Museum of Art and was hired by the college in 1998 to plan the construction and operation of its new museum.