Make us your home page

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. Tampa Bay museums have lots to see over holiday weekend

    Visual Arts

    This is the day for hanging out at home with friends and family and all the attendant customs you observe on a major holiday. For many of us, it's the beginning of a long weekend with lots of entertainment possibilities, especially if you have out-of-town guests. You know where I'm going with this: Go to a museum! You can choose one for its proximity or launch yourself further afield to see a particular exhibition or have a new arts experience. All are in locations that afford you other opportunities for sightseeing and dining. Check our Art Calendar (Page 23) or their websites for hours, admission and directions. Here they are, by city:...

    The Tampa Museum of Art has a prestigious collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, part of its permanent collection, and also hosts noted exhibitions.
  2. Art museums gave us big new shows in 2014 plus plans for new museums

    Visual Arts

    2014 has been the best year for museum exhibitions since I became the Tampa Bay Times art critic 12 years ago.

    Museums aren't rolling in money — fundraising is a constant challenge and administrative changes and staff turnover always cause bumps — but I am impressed with the ambition in programming. Fewer touring shows, organized by professional companies and other museums that are essentially rentals, were on the schedules, replaced by home-grown ones that are often important enough to merit scholarly catalogs and additional venues....

    James Rodger hangs black and white photos in the Sullivan Gallery for the My Generation: Young Chinese Artists exhibit at the Tampa Museum of Art in June.
  3. Guatemalan folk art gallery opens in St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts


    As a specialist in cancer and blood disorders, Dr. Robert Drapkin has been in the business of saving lives for most of his adult life. He also has spent an almost equal amount of time saving art. He and his wife, Chitranee, are collectors partial to fragility. Their main areas of interest are early forms of photography and pre-Columbian ceramics, both more vulnerable to destruction than many other art forms....

    Hand-carved items include a wooden crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
  4. Outdoor St. Petersburg Holiday of the Arts festival good for last-minute shopping

    Visual Arts

    If the thought of yet another trip to the mall or big-box store for that special gift you forgot to purchase seems too fraught, consider St. Petersburg Holiday of the Arts as an alternative. It's on Saturday and Sunday in South Straub Park, between Beach and Bayshore drives.

    It isn't one of our annual not-for-profit art festivals (such as Mainsail and Gasparilla Festival of the Arts) but organized by Paragon Fine Art Festivals that operates shows around the country. John Collins, executive director of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, teamed with the city to bring the show in. ...

    Beth Forst, Rainboot Euphoria.
  5. Duncan McClellan's Studio lets you design your own glass etching

    Visual Arts


    Need a break from shopping or a fun activity for guests? Duncan McClellan Glass is hosting etching events Saturday at his fabulous, enormous glass studio, 2342 Emerson Ave. S, St. Petersburg. It includes a tour of McClellan's hot shop and garden of tropical fruits. You choose or create a design, and assistants will help you apply it to a wine glass or plate. The professionals do the actual etching while you enjoy a libation. Some of the proceeds benefit McClellan's school projects, which provide art experiences in schools and his studio. Saturday etching sessions are at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.; $35 per person and reservations are required. Shown are wine glasses made by McClellan for the Stuart Society wine auction at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg in 2011. Your glass might not be quite this terrific, but it'll be close. or (813) 760-6600. — Lennie Bennett, Times art critic...

    StuartWineAuction. Caption: (Friday 02/11/2011 St. Petersburg) Hand blown, carved and etched wine glasses by local glass artist Duncan McClellan up for auction during the Stuart Society of the Museum of Fine Arts Wine Auction and Gala on Friday, February 11, 2011 at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg.
Summary: Stuart Society of the Museum of Fine Arts presented the Inaugural Wine Auction and Gala.
Photo by James Branaman
  6. Create an easy but classy holiday party menu for $10 per person


    Recently, friends and I were musing about holiday parties, how many there were in the past and so few now. None of us has big ones anymore. They have become so expensive, we all agreed. And can be stressful.

    So when thinking about a holiday entertaining story, I decided to do one with a menu that wasn't expensive — about $10 per person — and could be done mostly in advance, keeping things low on the stress scale. ...

    Wow your guests with Baked Brie garnished with candied nuts and pomegranate seeds.
  7. Meet John Collins, St. Petersburg Arts Alliance executive director

    Life Times

    John Collins must have a big battery pack hidden somewhere on his person. How else to explain his energy?

    Day or night, weekend or workday, the executive director of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance seems to be everywhere there is an arts-related happening or a potential donor who could fund it. He takes meetings in corporate offices in dark business suits, then trades them for jeans to take in a performance at Freefall Theatre or the monthly Second Saturday ArtWalk. His job description includes being an advocate for individual artists and large arts groups, providing resources and advice, and finding funding for projects and events. He also works with them on business models and grant writing and as a liaison to the city and corporate sponsors. ...

    Diane Shelly, executive director of Florida CraftArt, which sponsors the annual CraftArt Festival, sits next to John Collins on a wall painted with one of the dozens of murals along St. Petersburg’s Central Avenue Arts District. She’s one of the many arts professionals who works with Collins to promote the arts in the city.
  8. TEMPUS Projects celebrates fifth year

    Visual Arts

    Happy fifth anniversary TEMPUS Projects! The gallery began in a gritty little garage in Tampa's Seminole Heights and, as the neighborhood becomes more gentrified, TEMPUS leaders wanted it to grow, too. Its new home, made possible in part by a grant from the Gobioff Foundation, is a larger storefront space at 4636 N Florida Ave., Tampa, with air-conditioning and bathrooms (a big deal if you don't have them), plus high ceilings for larger art works. Celebrate at a free reception (donations greatly appreciated) from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday. That's also the opening of its new show, "Hi-5," a group show of works on paper and a mini-retrospective of sorts featuring past exhibiting artists. A pop-up shop will be stocked with prints, books from Blue Birds Books Bus and special edition TEMPUS T-shirts.

    TEMPUS Projects is an art gallery at 4636 N Florida Ave. It’s celebrating its fifth anniversary.
  9. See ceramic artists in their studios at Tour de Clay

    Visual Arts

    It's named Tour de Clay but leave the bike at home because this annual event on Saturday and Sunday stretches from Palm Harbor in Pinellas County to Lutz in Hillsborough and San Antonio in Pasco, offering looks inside five studios with 29 resident and visiting ceramics artists at work.

    Ceramics are plentiful at many galleries but a studio visit is special and worth the detour. You can see the objects in various stages of completion and watch an artist at work. Glazes and finishes are especially interesting because they're so varied. How they react to the heat of a kiln can surprise even the maker and I always learn something new when I talk to one. If I buy something, I have a deeper appreciation for it because I have met the artist, seen the hands from which it emerged and better understand how it was made. ...

    Charlie Parker at Wellman and Welsch Pottery.
  10. Great variety in landscape art at Leepa-Rattner Museum show

    Visual Arts


    Landscape art changes with ... the landscape.

    It also can change with the times. The way just three artists define the genre in two exhibitions at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art demonstrates how radically different it can be.

    Victoria Block and Alain Salesse collaborate for "Uncertain Landscape," a joint show of sculpture, drawings, paintings and mixed media. It's all representational, but that representation is in service to metaphors about the world around us. You might pause as you approach a gallery, eyeing a group of large, egg-shaped objects that blink with light, emit noises and bid you come hither with appurtenances inviting inspection. Is this a nest? If so, where is the mother, who must be ginormous? And what will they hatch?...

    Alain Salesse, Avoir le temps (To Have Time), 2010, ceramic, glaze dried lavender sprigs, glass, metal.
  11. Winter Park's Morse Museum features free holiday events

    Visual Arts

    Most museums have special events for the holidays and the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art has some of the best. The Winter Park institution is renowned for its comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, including his gorgeous mosaic chapel created for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. And hundreds of beautifully crafted decorative objects including Tiffany lead glass windows....

    Lead glass Christmas Eve window from Tiffany Studios, c. 1902, Thomas Nast Jr. (1840-1902), designer.
  12. Glass artist Randi Solin at Safety Harbor gallery for show, reception

    Visual Arts

    Randi Solin's lovely glass vessels will be on view and for sale at Syd Entel Galleries/Susan Benjamin Glass, 247 Main St., Safety Harbor, Saturday through Jan. 17. (You also might see one at the White House since it's in its permanent collection, though not for sale.) They are created as a hybrid of Venetian glass-blowing methods and modern studio glass techniques, which gives them a painterly look as you see in this example. Solin will be at the gallery for an opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday with an artist's talk at 7. Free. Regular gallery hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. or (727) 725-1808....

    Image from Syd Entel Galleries
  13. Tampa's Blake High School seniors exhibit art at HCC Ybor

    Visual Arts

    Everyone seems to agree that the arts are a good thing for communities. But artists, both visual and performing, don't magically appear fully formed as young adults. They need training and nurturing and, sadly, our educational system doesn't supply enough of either in many schools. The good news is that our region has about a dozen magnet schools specializing in the arts, among them Blake High School in Tampa. The school's graduating seniors who have concentrated on visual arts will exhibit their work in painting, ceramics, sculpture, jewelry, photography, sculpture and digital art at the Ybor Campus Art Gallery of Hillsborough Community College beginning Dec. 4 and continuing through Dec. 15. A free reception and awards ceremony on Dec. 4 begins at 5 p.m. The gallery is on the HCC Ybor campus at Palm Avenue and 15th Street, Tampa. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Free. (813) 253-7674....

  14. Bruce Marsh landscape paintings featured at Sarasota gallery

    Visual Arts

    Bruce Marsh, distinguished painter and professor emeritus at the University of South Florida, has created hundreds of landscape paintings, many of them of areas around his home in Ruskin. For "Bruce Marsh: Now and Then," curator Mark Ormond collected 10 years' worth of them and has installed them in Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art in Sarasota.

    Marsh's landscapes have often been more than beautiful representations, though they are that, too. His canvases can be multiple windows into a scene, painted as one might look at it, sweeping around for different perspectives, taking a long view then a closeup. His representational style is a wondrous effect to study, a dexterous, subtle blend of many brushstrokes that borders on abstraction until all cohere as something we recognize. Some of his current works address development in his rural area....

    Bruce Marsh, Bay Edge.
  15. See wealth of Spain's colonial empire at Ringling Museum

    Visual Arts


    We love looking in other people's homes, especially if they're rich other people. Back in the 18th century, people didn't get much richer than those living in Spain's colonial empire in Central and South America and the West Indies.

    "Behind Closed Doors: Art in the Spanish American Home, 1492-1898" at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art has a trove of art and decorative objects from homes of the people who came to the New World seeking, and finding, wealth derived from its natural resources. In the process, they evolved an eclectic style marrying the homeland and the new land with a bit of Asian opulence thrown in. ...

    This portrait from 1806, painted by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, is of Don Tadeo Bravo de Rivero, a Peruvian Creole from a prominent family, who had a successful diplomatic career in Madrid, where this was created. He benefited from a policy instituted by the king to promote loyalty among the colonials and incorporate them into Spanish society by granting them prestigious positions in the Spanish government.