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Lennie Bennett, Times Art Critic

Lennie Bennett

Lennie Bennett joined the Times in 1995 as the "On the Town" columnist and also wrote general assignment stories on a variety of topics, including local arts, cultural issues and philanthropy. She became the art critic in 2002. She reviews the visual arts in all forms throughout the Tampa Bay area and, on occasion, nationally. She has also been a regular panelist for various arts organizations.

Phone: (727) 893-8293


  1. Art Planner: New shows in Sarasota and a Chad Mize project at The Bends

    Visual Arts


    So much is happening in the Tampa Bay regional arts scene we forget that farther south, Sarasota remains the matriarch of the arts on Florida's west coast where the Ringling complex of museums and performing arts stages rules.

    Art Center Sarasota might hold smaller sway but it predates the Ringling Museum by five years. Opened in 1926, it was the first arts institution in the city. The organization has occupied its home at 707 N Tamiami Trail for almost 50 years. Like most arts centers, it's member-based and offers classes and exhibition opportunities to them. For the public, the center also has special exhibitions. ...

    Mabel Poblet, Simply, Beautiful, mixed media, 2015 at Tampa Museum of Art.
  2. Tampa Bay area art museums offer a rich 2015-16 season

    Visual Arts

    Today we bring you the 13th annual preview of exhibitions at our regional museums. These are shows that make appearances for a limited time, unlike permanent collections that are on view all the time. Each of the museums listed here has a unique mission, and the special exhibitions are designed to reinforce and enhance our appreciation and understanding of that mission.

    This year our museums bring us plenty of variety, since each museum has its own unique mission. We are most fortunate to have such diversity. Our museums are community treasures, and there will be many gems to discover during the coming months....

    At the Ringling Museum, gilded bronze statue of the Lord of Nine Stars, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), from the Hubei Provincial Muaeum

credit: Johansen Krause
  3. SHINE Mural Festival brings new wall art to St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts


    There will be paint. A lot of it.

    The SHINE Mural Festival officially kicks off Tuesday, but you might already notice a small army of artists transforming drab exterior walls into tapestries of color and imagery along the Central Avenue corridor and fanning out north and south at three locations and counting. They will add to a vibrant and growing collection of murals that has enhanced St. Petersburg's image as an artful city....

    Artist Ya La’Ford works on a mural, which uses the tunnel under First Avenue S near Tropicana Field. The mural is called Sunnel, for the rising and setting sun shown on the tunnel’s walls and ceiling.
  4. Art Planner: Fashion meets art in Dunedin, St. Pete; plus cheap family fun at Tampa Museum of Art

    Visual Arts




    Its age has earned it the description "venerable," but Wearable Art 11 at Dunedin Fine Art Center, 1143 Michigan Blvd., Dunedin, on Saturday is anything but. In the past, guests have been treated to couture made with raw meat and pyrotechnics, for example, so each year the bar gets upped a little more, skewing toward decidedly unwearable (for most folks) performance art....

    “In Living Color,” an exhibit at the Tampa Museum of Art, features Andy Warhol screen prints.
  5. The art of curation: Museum curators talk about what they do

    Visual Arts

    They are a diverse group united by a word: curator. You probably have never met any of them unless you have attended a gallery talk in conjunction with an exhibition. Yet curators, more than any other arts professionals who work at museums, are responsible for what you see and how you see it. • Curators interpret a museum's mission and collection for the viewing public. They organize temporary exhibitions and arrange for traveling shows that enhance or extend the primary mission. They decide how the art will be shown in the galleries. They are active in developing educational and entertainment programming related to the art. They develop relationships with collectors and other institutions for sharing art. They guide the process of acquiring art based on a museum's needs and resources. They, of course, collaborate with other staff members to make these things happen, from the director, the most important community conduit and the one who guides the overall direction, to the professionals who hammer the nails into walls, frame paintings, inventory the art ... and more, myriad vital tasks within the museum. Curators generally coordinate all the moving parts of exhibitions. • In exploring their multiple roles, the Tampa Bay Times has turned to some of the curators of our regional art museums to explain the many ways they perform their jobs, why they chose their line of work and their personal preferences as collectors. Some of their answers in that last area will surprise you....

    From left are University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum curators Peter Foe, Margaret A. Miller, Sarah Howard, Megan Voeller and Noel Marie Smith.
  6. After 70 years of creativity, painter has mastered the art of living

    Human Interest

    If it's retirement, it's a most active one.

    Nearing 90, Janice James still paints with the gusto she brought to her art at the beginning of her career.

    She and her husband, Bill, 88, moved from St. Petersburg to Sun City Center, an age-restricted retirement community in southern Hillsborough County, in 2004, and the idea was to slow down. Judging by her output since then, she has not. ...

    Janice James has been a well-known St. Petersburg artist for decades. She now lives in the Sun City Center retirement community with her husband, Bill, a retired banker. But she hasn’t slowed down.
  7. Art Planner: Professors show off at Ringling, social commentary at HCC Ybor

    Visual Arts




    Teachers deserve all the recognition they can be given. And what better way to acknowledge art teachers, who spend their days nurturing the art of others, than to give them their own show? The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art does just that with "Back and Forth: Thinking in Paint," which showcases works by five faculty members of the College of Fine Arts at Florida State University. (FSU owns the museum, so there is a lot of collaboration, but this one is a first.)...

    Syd Solomon created this triptych, on display in “The Lightness of Being” at Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art.
  8. Jerry N. Smith named new chief curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, has a new chief curator. Director Kent Lydecker announced that Jerry N. Smith will begin his job as the Hazel and William Hough chief curator Oct. 19.

    The post has been vacant since Jennifer Harden, who had held the job for almost 20 years, resigned in June.

    "Jerry has held leadership positions at the Phoenix Art Museum for more than a decade," Lydecker said. "He has been responsible for all aspects of display, interpretation and acquisitions of works by artists ranging from Leonardo da Vinci to Paul Cézanne to Andy Warhol." ...

  9. Raymond James chairman to open an art museum in downtown St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom James' idea for an art museum has been a dream for years and the subject of speculation for months, but now it's an official plan.

    The executive chairman of Raymond James Financial announced Monday that he is under contract to purchase the first two floors of a building at 100 Central Ave. so the public can enjoy what his family and employees have privately enjoyed for years. ...

    A bronze statue titled Sugar for the Road by Joe Beeler stands in a hallway as employees navigate the halls of Raymond James Financial in St. Petersburg in 2007. Tom James’ huge art collection is mostly displayed at his corporate headquarters, Raymond James Financial, but some of his personal collection will move to a new museum in St. Petersburg in 2017.
  10. Pinellas County school kids get a chance to design license plates

    Visual Arts

    CLEARWATER — The Pinellas County tax collector is going into the art business.

    Wearable art, in a sense, since it will enliven the exterior of cars. Even better, it will be an art and entrepreneurial opportunity for elementary school students.

    Tax Collector Diane Nelson recently announced Kid Tag Art, a partnership between her office, the public school system and private sponsors, in which elementary-age students will create vanity plates that will be sold, with most of the money returned to their teachers for supplies and field trips. ...

    Legoland: Lilliana Grimm of St. Anthony Catholic School.
  11. The new SPF15 festival will celebrate the arts in St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts

    ST. PETERSBURG — The city's growing cultural footprint in its downtown will get bigger in September with a new festival that celebrates the arts in a broad-band way.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman unveiled the ambitious outlines of SPF15 on Wednesday at a news conference at the Morean Center for Clay.

    "We're building what we hope is a festival with worldwide recognition," he said, comparing its potential to Art Basel, an uber-gathering of artists, galleries and collectors held annually in Switzerland. The clever name should help catch people's attention at the least....

    As part of SPF15 and the SHINE Mural Festival, students attended a seven-day camp at Bloom Art Center in August for art class that included hands-on experience which they will use to create a new mural in the Central Arts District which will debut on Sept. 1. [Image from Bloom Art Center]
  12. Art Planner: Cecil the lion replicas, Cuban art and a foil house remembered

    Visual Arts


    Our hearts are still breaking over the death of Cecil the lion, who was shot by a hunter several weeks ago. People who like to display big game animal trophies should take a cue from collectors, among them many celebrities, who show off the lifelike animal sculptures of Anne Andersson instead. The St. Petersburg resident creates life-size animals — lions are the biggest sellers — from sisal, a fiber made from the agave plant that is used to make ropes and rugs. She sculpts her animals using metal armature on which she builds a plaster form, then covers it with sisal matting and glues tufts of it over that to simulate fur. Siegfried and Roy commissioned a family of Bengal tigers for a Las Vegas hotel and Busch Gardens has some of her creations as well. Former professional football player and now talk show host Michael Strahan purchased two sisal lion heads recently, she said. Most of her animals are commissioned but several galleries throughout the country carry her work, including Sign of the Dolphin, a home decor and clothing store at 12999 Park Blvd., Seminole ( They currently have a tiger cub, a lion head and lion bust (with part of its torso) from $2,500 to $4,200. To see more of her work, go to

    Landscape from a show of Cuban artists at Nuance Galleries.
  13. Art Planner: Free art walks, quilt appraisal and a deal on First Night buttons

    Visual Arts


    That fabulous minaret-topped building on the University of Tampa campus is more than historical on the outside. The former Tampa Bay Hotel, built by Henry B. Plant and opened in 1891, houses the charming Plant Museum, which pays homage to the Gilded Age with its period rooms and lush decor. Admission is usually $5 to $10 but is free on First Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. In addition to its permanent collection, the museum has a special one on view. "Passionate Design: The American Arts and Crafts Movement" features early 20th-century decorative objects from the superb collection of Rudy Ciccarello and his Two Red Roses Foundation. Shown is a 1914 ceramic bowl. Matt Weihmuller's Jazz Trio will entertain on the veranda. The museum, at 401 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, is also part of the Blue Star program, meaning admission is free for military members and up to five family members through Labor Day. (813) 254-1891. ...

    1914 ceramic bowl by Edith Brown and Fannie Levine of Paul Revere Pottery/Saturday Evening Girls, Boston.
  14. Art Planner: Kristin Beauvois portraits, Dick Jacobs' 'Wonderlust' and a mural festival on the way

    Visual Arts




    After seeing the one shown here that came with a news release, I had to go to Kristin Beauvois' website to see more. They're terrific! These aren't conventional renderings of people. She defines them as abstractions, and indeed, reality is greatly distilled in them. In some ways, they can be related to Frank Auerbach's better-known, wonderful works, though Beauvois uses watercolor and ink, making them softer and more ephemeral. You're invited to a free opening reception at the studio, 620 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg, from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday. Also featured will be collaborative works by Beauvois and artist Tyler Staggs. The show continues through Aug. 28. The studio is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday or Thursday or by appointment. (727) 895-6620.

    Kristin Beauvois, Solitary Figure, one of her abstract portraits on view at the Studio@620.
  15. Director tapped for Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement

    Visual Arts

    ST. PETERSBURG — The planned $70 million Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement already has a collection, will soon have a completed parking garage and now is expecting the arrival of its first director.

    Kevin Tucker, senior curator of decorative art and design at the Dallas Museum of Art, has been hired as the museum's director.

    "When considering this most important position, I couldn't think of a more qualified, capable and knowledgeable museum professional to lead this effort," said Rudy Ciccarello, a retired businessman who owns the collection and is building the museum to house it. "His understanding of the Arts and Crafts Movement, the objects and the artists who created them, is exemplary and is based on his 25 years of experience working in the decorative arts field."...

    Kevin Tucker is director of the upcoming Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement.