Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gulf Coast Museum of Art closes; collection to be dispersed

Members of the Questers Bardens’ Angels study works by Christopher Still at the Gulf Coast Museum of Art earlier this month. The museum closed Monday.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Members of the Questers Bardens’ Angels study works by Christopher Still at the Gulf Coast Museum of Art earlier this month. The museum closed Monday.

LARGO — Struggling with low attendance in its out-of-the-way location, the Gulf Coast Museum of Art had been angling to move to a more visible spot in downtown Clearwater.

Instead, the 73-year-old museum abruptly closed its doors for good Monday — "a sad and disappointing end," according to a statement sent to its members.

The museum says it's out of money and options. Instead of putting its sculptures, jewelry and artwork into temporary storage, it's preparing to donate them to other museums.

"There's a lot of interest in the collection," said museum spokeswoman Lisa Brock.

The art museum has been clashing with Pinellas County officials over whether it can sell or sublease its current buildings, which it built in the county-owned Pinewood Cultural Park off Walsingham Road.

The county owns the land on which the buildings sit.

The museum has been there since 1999. It announced last summer that it would close at the end of January due to a lack of attendance and a dwindling endowment, but that it would explore moving to a new location. Its board had hoped to open a new museum by 2012.

Recently, the museum had been trying to relocate to Clearwater, into a former AmSouth Bank high-rise that's now largely vacant. The building is across the street from a historic theater that Ruth Eckerd Hall plans to turn into a performing arts center. Clearwater leaders hoped the museum could become a cornerstone of a downtown arts district.

But to keep its finances afloat, the museum had been hoping the county would buy its buildings, which include a gallery, classrooms, office and theater.

The county's Pinewood Park near Largo is also home to the Florida Botanical Gardens and Heritage Village, a collection of historical buildings.

Last summer, county leaders appeared receptive to the idea of buying the museum out. But now the county says it can't afford it.

County Commission Chairman Calvin Harris said the museum has been asking for nearly $4 million for its buildings.

"We have made every effort to help them stay in business, but the county does not have $4 million to give them," Harris said. "This is the worst possible budget year for that. We're talking about laying people off."

Two appraisals put the buildings' market value at more than $5 million, according to correspondence between the museum and county officials.

If the county wouldn't buy the buildings, the museum asked for changes to its lease to allow it to sublease its buildings to a tenant or sell them to another buyer. But county staffers said that would be difficult.

"The county should show more flexibility," said Kathy Donald, a museum member for three years. "Around $8 million was donated to build those buildings, and now the county can come in and take them."

Although Clearwater leaders had hoped to see the museum move to their city, they said they couldn't afford to subsidize its day-to-day operations.

"We would consider helping them with some relocation costs, but we can't do anything unless they have some operating dollars," said Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard. "It's a shame. That museum is a hidden gem."

The museum was founded in 1936 as the "Art Section" of the Clearwater Women's Club. As it grew, it moved to Belleair in the 1940s and to its current site in the '90s. The county wooed the museum to Pinewood Cultural Park, eager to have an arts presence alongside the historical and natural attractions there.

But the location proved too remote, and the museum lost money. Its $8 million endowment shrank to about $500,000.

Now the museum's leaders must consider what to do with the sculpture garden and the permanent collection.

"It cannot be sold for profit," said Brock, the museum's spokeswoman. "Everything will be placed with accredited museums so the artwork can be enjoyed in perpetuity."

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4160.

If you go

The museum's collection

Aside from hosting numerous exhibitions by artists such as painter Christopher Still, the Gulf Coast Museum of Art has an elaborate sculpture garden and six galleries displaying its permanent collection, a diverse selection of works by contemporary Florida artists.

Gulf Coast Museum of Art closes; collection to be dispersed 01/26/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 26, 2009 11:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Mumford and Sons shower Amalie Arena with love in euphoric Tampa debut

    Blogs

    There are releases, and then there are releases. And minutes into their concert Wednesday at Amalie Arena, Mumford and Sons gave Tampa the latter.

    Mumford and Sons performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Sept. 20, 2017.
  2. FEMA to open disaster recovery center in Riverview

    Hurricanes

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will open a disaster recovery center Thursday in Riverview for Hillsborough County residents impacted by Hurricane Irma.

  3. Life sentence for man convicted in killing of brother of Bucs' Kwon Alexander

    Bucs

    An Alabama man who shot and killed the 17-year-old brother of Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander in 2015 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, the Anniston (Ala.) Star reported.

  4. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.

    Figures.

    Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) grounds into a double play to end the top of the third inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  5. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest

    Health

    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]