Patrons of the Museum of Fine Arts honored retiring director John Schloder at a black-tie dinner and reception, with those closely associated with the institution heaping praise on Schloder and the museum staff for numerous milestones accomplished since his appointment in September 2001.
Retired longtime board of trustees president Carol Upham described Schloder's tenure as "the Museum of Fine Arts at its finest for me … the Golden Age for me and the Golden Age for this museum. John came here nine years ago with hope and has ended with achievement. This community is entirely different now."
Current board president Seymour Gordon and other notables described a long list of accomplishments under Schloder's leadership, chiefly expanding the museum's educational offerings; presenting blockbuster exhibitions featuring the works of Dale Chihuly and Claude Monet; adding 39,000 square feet of space, doubling the size of the museum; opening the Hazel Hough Wing; growing the collection from 5,000 works of art to 15,000; creating a gallery devoted exclusively to photography; and increasing attendance and membership.
"Directors of museums are a very special breed," said Yann Weymouth, the architect who designed the Hough Wing. "These are individuals of extraordinary talent."
Schloder, the museum's fourth director, will continue through July and will remain, as needed, as a consultant and interim curator of education through July 2011. He is on a committee for the French National Museums that is assembling an exhibition of the art collected by Cardinal Richelieu; that show is scheduled for March 2011.
Mary Alice McClendon and Barbara McCoy were co-chairs for the celebration, which benefits educational programming.
Glitz and glamor were everywhere to be found at the "Harlem Nights" gala presented by members of the Zeta Upsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and the Youth Development Foundation of Pinellas County.
Two garments featured in the Ebony Fashion Fair, by American designers Carolina Herrera and Koos Van Den Akker, were among the items included in the silent auction at the event, held in the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront.
The evening drew about 250 guests and raised around $15,000 for area charities, scholarships and youth leadership programs.
Jacqueline Gayle-Kelly chaired the event committee, and Lena Wilfalk was the co-chair.