PLANT CITY — All Tim and Jeannette Shaw wanted to do was cover some of the bare space on the walls of their Plant City home that stretches as high as 14 feet.
So they started to buy art. It began with a few pieces from Morris Katz and soon paintings from Helen Wilson Sherman, Gene Cox, Melvin King, Ansel Adams and others followed.
"I like the art more than he does," Jeannette said. "We shop together and if we both like it, we buy it."
That trend has never stopped and now the Shaws own more than 450 pieces of art.
"Our friends and family call our house the Louvre," Jeannette said.
The reference to Paris' famed museum, combined with dwindling wall space, motivated them to open their own business. So the Shaws decided to bring a museum to downtown Plant City, hoping to add to the charm of a district dotted with antiques.
They opened the Herd Museum of Fine Art and Collectables on Feb. 1 at 113 S Palmer St. Since art aficionados would have to travel to Tampa or Orlando to see similar exhibitions, the Shaws have taken the artistic liberty of calling their new museum the area's largest private collection of fine art and collectibles.
While Jeannette, who also works as a registered nurse, has taken the lead on the fine art portion of the museum, Tim and daughter Mary Wright have been responsible for the collectibles. Tim has a passion for Star Wars. From movie posters and out of circulation action figures to carrying cases and even the 1977 Burger King collector drinking glasses, he has compiled a collection that would fall in line with the Jedi Order. Mary, 26, has been collecting porcelain dolls ever since she was 7.
The Shaws call the museum a "work in progress" featuring approximately 100 paintings from their personal collection. While future plans could include a gallery with art for sale, for now they just want to share their love of the items they have enjoyed for decades.
Some of the pieces include art from Katz — one worth $6,000 — who was dubbed "the world's fastest artist" by Guinness World Records after he finished a painting in just 38 seconds; an American flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol in 1971; and an original 1918 poster from E.G. Renesch called Colored Man is No Slacker that depicts the pride of African-American infantrymen who fought in World War I.
The museum is open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission ranges from $5 to $10; bring a nonperishable food item and receive $2.50 off admission. Donations benefit the United Food Bank of Plant City.
"We try to help the community out as well," Tim said. "There's a lot of hungry people out there."
Italian offerings dance in to Valrico plaza
Anthony Cimino, who has been preparing Italian cuisine for 35 years — the past 15 in Hillsborough County — is set to open his latest restaurant in Valrico in six to eight weeks. La Bella Notte Italian Cuisine will be Cimino's latest venture after changing the popular Angelina's name and moving from Riverhills Plaza.
The restaurant, located adjacent to Judy's Dance Academy in the Eastshore Plaza at 1713 State Road 60 in Valrico, will be a joint effort with his son, Patrick LeCorre, promising pasta, pizza and more.
"It's not the Taj Mahal," Cimino said. "It's going to be really different — nice and quaint."
Cimino said customers can expect an old style pizza shop in the front and 65 seats in the back. Menu prices are expected to be $11 to $15. Hours will be Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.