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St. Petersburg College to acquire, exhibit all art from Largo Gulf Coast Museum

ST. PETERSBURG

Largo's Gulf Coast Museum of Art is gone, but its collection will remain in Pinellas County, intact.

St. Petersburg College president Carl Kuttler will announce today that an agreement has been reached to transfer ownership of all 425 works, valued at $750,000, to the college.

"Within 60 to 90 days, we believe we'll have a display of these beautiful works installed in downtown St. Petersburg at Florida International Museum," he said. "They'll be available to a whole new audience."

The collection's future has been in limbo since the museum closed its doors in January, a victim, its leaders said, of its location in Largo. Low attendance and a small donor base did not provide enough revenue for operating expenses since its opening in 1999. The original $8 million endowment had been depleted over the years to cover deficits.

Museums throughout the state were contacted about taking the art, and a number were interested in some but not all of it.

"Most museums have a specific mission," said David Barshel, president of the museum's board of directors. "They wouldn't have been able to use the entire collection."

"When I read that it would potentially be divided up," Kuttler said, "I thought, 'what a loss.' "

"Our main goal was to keep it intact and keep it local, to honor everyone who had contributed to the museum over the years," Barshel said.

Much of it will be exhibited at Florida International Museum for several months.

The collection is small by museum standards, consisting mostly of contemporary art and fine crafts by Florida artists. Probably the most valuable works are those by 19th century landscape painter George Inness. Among the other artists are photographer Clyde Butcher, painters William Pachner, Christopher Still and Theo Wujcik, and glass artist Duncan McClellan.

Kuttler said the collection's long-term home would probably not be at the museum, which in the past has had temporary traveling shows, a mission Kuttler wants to continue. He and the SPC staff are negotiating other temporary exhibitions, including one based on the lives and presidencies of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, possibly for late this year.

He indicated that the collection could be exhibited throughout the college's multiple locations.

"There are many shows in that collection. We can rotate some in and out of our campuses," he said. "We have a new downtown center with American Stage (opening in late spring) with a beautiful lobby area. Some could go there. There are 14 outdoor sculptures we can place. A portion could be shown at our Leepa-Rattner Museum (in Tarpon Springs).

"In any case, it will be exhibited and cared for. We never take a project on that we can't complete."

Lennie Bennett can be reached at (727) 893-8293 or lennie@sptimes.com.

St. Petersburg College to acquire, exhibit all art from Largo Gulf Coast Museum 02/17/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 17, 2009 9:14pm]

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