DUNEDIN — Art museums of Europe came to know Martha Brincklow over the years, almost as well as she knew them. Mrs. Brincklow took hundreds of high school and college students to several European countries, first as a teacher at Dunedin High School and then at the international studies program at St. Petersburg College.
Mrs. Brincklow, a slim woman of seemingly limitless energy, devoted her life to studying the arts and sharing her excitement with young people.
As she led generations of students into places such as the Louvre in Paris, the Sistine Chapel in Rome and the Tate Gallery in London, Mrs. Brincklow often began with a question: What did they think about what they were looking at?
"She would ask them what they are experiencing, what do they see?" said Elizabeth Brincklow, her daughter and St. Petersburg's arts and international relations manager. "And then she would fill in (with facts) about the piece. She always went to the person first."
Mrs. Brincklow, a former Pinellas County Teacher of the Year who also founded the international studies program at St. Petersburg College, died Friday at a Palm Harbor hospice. She was 95. She played key roles in establishing St. Petersburg College's online art history course, which she taught through December, as well as establishing the Dunedin Fine Art Center.
She began taking students to Europe in 1973 after Dunedin High humanities students asked her to show them the art galleries she had told them about.
By 1980, she had sold the idea of art tours for course credit to St. Petersburg College. For the next 20 summers, she took high school and college students on joint three-week trips to Europe.
Sometimes she conducted classes on the train from Paris to Florence. Because many of her students were teenagers, she still made the rounds each night for an 11 p.m. bed check.
"It was very much educationally sound, but it was done in a manner to create a rich environment for students," said Lynda Womer, an associate provost of St. Petersburg College's Seminole campus who worked in the 1980s to get Mrs. Brincklow's programs approved by the school.
For many years, her daughter said, Mrs. Brincklow was one of the few outside museum docents, or guides, permitted by European museums such as the Louvre or the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, or the Accademia gallery in Florence, where Michaelangelo's David stands. Such museums have preferred to limit tours to their own docents, she said.
Martha Powell was born in Scobey, Mont., in 1915, and came to Tampa in 1925. She graduated from the University of Tampa and later earned a master's degree from Florida State University.
She began teaching full time in 1937 at Seminole Elementary in Tampa. She married an airman, S. Ralph Brincklow, in 1945, and moved to Stoneham, Mass. The family moved to Dunedin in 1956, and Mrs. Brincklow started teaching at what was then Dunedin Junior High.
"She always had the feeling of being a very cultured, regal person," said Christopher Still, Mrs. Brincklow's humanities student at Dunedin High in the late 1970s.
Seeing his ability as an artist, Mrs. Brincklow allowed Still to paint in a corner of the room as she conducted class. The two maintained a friendship over the years, and she bought some of his work.
Today, Still, 50, is a member of the Florida Artists Hall of Fame whose work hangs in the state Capitol. He credits his former teacher for nurturing his talent and expanding his artistic curiosity.
"I think the masterpieces of Europe are grieving that they will not hear the voice of Martha pass before them," he said, "sharing their meaning with great knowledge."
This story has been modified to reflect the following correction: The Sistine Chapel is located in Vatican City, which is within Rome. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect city.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.