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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. 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....

    A SHINE mural on a side wall of the Amsterdam Bar on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg was completed with the help of students from the Bloom Gallery in St. Petersburg.
  2. 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....

    Work by Lina Teixeira, who designed this dress, is in Wearable Art 11.
  3. 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....

    Seth D. Pevnick of the Tampa Museum of Art says he has “become spoiled by working around magnificent art each day.”
  4. 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.
  5. 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.)...

    Green Hat Loses, a painting by Carl Knickerbocker, is at HCC Ybor Art Gallery.
  6. 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." ...

  7. 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. ...

    Tom James is executive chairman of Raymond James Financial.
  8. 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. ...

    Examples of Kids Tag Art from the Polk County tax collector, who started the program which is being launched in the Pinellas County tax collector and Pinellas schools.
  9. 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]
  10. 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

    A lifelike sculpture of a lion by Anne Andersson is a good replacement for the real (dead) thing.
  11. 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. ...

    Color and light are part of the activities in the downtown parks at First Night, which culminates
in fireworks.
  12. 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.

    Richard O. “Dick” Jacobs, Leopard, Botswana, from his book Wonderlust.
  13. 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.
  14. Review: 'The American Spirit' at Tampa Museum of Art tells its story through art

    Visual Arts


    “The American Spirit: Painting and Sculpture From the Santa Barbara Museum of Art" would be a good standalone exhibition but, lucky visitors, it's but one of two very fine ones now at the Tampa Museum of Art.

    Several weeks ago, I reviewed "In Living Color: Andy Warhol and Contemporary Printmaking," also at the Tampa Museum, which by itself is worth the admission. While the word "bargain" isn't usually associated with museums, you're getting one, especially when you factor in the ever-present antiquities from the permanent collection....

    John George Brown, Pull for the Shore, no date, oil on canvas.
  15. Art Planner: Morean Member's Show, Florida Flavor in Sarasota and art business classes

    Visual Arts


    The Morean Arts Center is almost a centenarian but maintains an ever-lively spring in its step. Much of the energy comes from its ever-evolving membership rolls. Imagine the thousands of individuals who have been involved through the decades, most of them artists, both professionals and amateurs! It opened as the Arts Center in a small downtown St. Petersburg building in 1917 and since 1918 has had an annual Members' Show. It's a way to say thanks for the support and let the collective talent shine. ...

    Steven Kenny, The Carriage, oil.