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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. It's a 3-D art party at Bloom in St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts

    Organizers are describing it as "eye-popping," but it sounds more like an out-of-body experience. "Bloom 3D Art Show" is a one-night event on Saturday with all the art in three dimensions. (Special glasses provided.) About two dozen artists will transform the galleries at Oleson Gallery and Bloom Art Center, a repurposed warehouse at 910 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Shown is a chromodepth painting by Sebastian Coolidge, best seen with the 3-D glasses. Three live bands will entertain beginning at 9:30 and a donation bar will be available. The event is from 7 p.m. to midnight and admission is $9. Sounds like a good party. ...

    Chromodepth painting by Sebastian Coolidge at Bloom Art Center, St. Petersburg.
  2. How one woman launched the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, 50 years ago

    Visual Arts

    “Why not have an art museum in St. Petersburg?"

    So mused a wealthy woman to herself sometime in the late 1950s.

    And so began the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, which opened its doors Feb. 7, 1965. It transformed the cultural landscape of the city, becoming an institution that was so much more than it had to be, committed from the beginning to the high standards of major museums. It rallied a broad demographic to embrace it as a source of pride and pleasure....

    This undated painting shows the older building on Beach Drive and Second Avenue NE that would be razed after the Museum of Fine Arts was completed in 1965. During construction, it was used by the museum for offices. 
Images from Museum of Fine Arts archive and Thomas U. Gessler
  3. Visual art show at Studio@620 features new curator, Kenny Jensen

    Visual Arts

    The Studio@620 is one of the great success stories on our regional cultural map. In its 10 years, it has attracted a small army of loyal donors and volunteers that have kept it self-sustaining. Its only mission seems to be director Bob Devin Jones' mantra of "yes" to any and all requests to use the space for community and cultural enrichment and especially to support fledgling performing arts groups. ...

    A work by artist Kenny Jensen from his show at Studio@620, where he is the new manager.
  4. Art Festival Beth-El has art for everyone — without weather worries

    Visual Arts

    I write a lot about the pleasure art can bring us. A great way to have that kind of experience is at the wonderful art festivals dotting our yearly calendars. First out of the gate for 2015 is Art Festival Beth-El on Sunday and Monday.

    The festival offers great stylistic variety even though everything is contemporary. In years past, I have seen still lifes painted in the style of Old Masters, futuristic-looking glass sculptures and everything in between. It always has a nice selection of fine jewelry. (Hint: Valentine's Day)...

    Patrick Dragon, ceramic
  5. Picasso/Dalí exhibit extended

    Visual Arts

    To no one's surprise, "Picasso/Dalí, Dalí/Picasso" at the Dali Museum has been a hit with visitors. So it's no wonder that museum officials are extending its run by one week, with closing day Feb. 22.

    "We would have extended it even longer if we could have," said Kathy Greif, the museum's marketing director, but it has an opening date set for March 19 at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona....

  6. Photograph exhibitions showcase nuance of black and white

    Visual Arts


    Black and white photographs are studies in contrast, explorations of tonal nuance between the extremes of light and dark. Two exhibitions at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts provide excellent examples of two 20th century fine photographers working in the black and white tradition, along with a demonstration of how varied that tradition is.

    We could consider both eloquent landscape artists. Ezra Stoller (1915-2004) worshiped at the altar of mid-century American architecture, also called modern architecture, and his crisp, elegant documentations are odes to a specific time and style. Elger Esser (1967-) takes us out of time with his haunting, atmospheric portraits of the French countryside. ...

    Elger Esser, Combray (Saint-Romain-de-Lerps), 2010, heliogravure on handmade paper.
  7. New paintings of Port Tampa Bay are artful documentaries

    Visual Arts

    Laura Waller has been a presence in the bay area arts community for decades. Besides being involved as an advocate and supporter of various organizations, she's a painter whose loosely worked, soft watercolors have evolved into a more muscular style with a heavier water-based oil paint. And what a surprise to see the subject matter of a new series that opens at Clayton Galleries Friday.

    In "The Working Waterfront: Port of Tampa," Waller explores the bustling industrial waterfront in 25 paintings that take viewers to scenes closed to outsiders and curiosity seekers because of strict security. She wrangled her way in through a personal connection and spent months exploring the area and operations from wharfs and a small boat....

    Laura Waller, Lacanau, oil on canvas.
  8. How to love art in your own way

    Visual Arts

    Before there were self-help books and the legions of advice columnists, before Dr. Phil, there was art.

    From early human history, visual expression was the most common and universal way to communicate, to tell the human story and place it in a larger context. It could explain, reassure, comfort, inspire and validate. Therein lay its value.

    So it wasn't art as we think of art today. The cave paintings from 30,000 years ago weren't "art." Neither were the murals in Egyptian tombs, the marble friezes in Greek and Roman temples or the medieval icons and biblical representations. ...

  9. Four big shows (plus a big kiln) at Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts

    The Morean Arts Center starts 2015 with a strong lineup of four new exhibitions, all now open, featuring painting, ceramics and photography. They're spread over two venues, their headquarters at 719 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, and the Center for Clay, 420 22nd St. S, St. Petersburg, in the historic train station.

    A True Story: Beth Reynolds and the St. Pete Photo Club

    At the Morean Arts Center through March 1...

    Betsy Orbe Lester, Float, from the Acrylic Painters juried show.
  10. Haitian Vodou art featured at Florida CraftArt in St. Petersburg

    Visual Arts

    Haitian art is often deeply rooted in spiritual beliefs and the practice of Vodou. (Don't confuse it with the creepy voodoo portrayed in popular culture and scary movies.) It is also has a deep affiliation with the folk art tradition, though many artists are trained, not self-taught. Fine examples of contemporary Haitian art will be on view in "Living With Mysticism: The Power of Visual Vodou," curated by Mindy Solomon, opening Friday with a free reception from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Florida CraftArt, 501 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. It continues through March 2. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. or (727) 821-7391. Shown are found-object sculptures by Guyodo....

    Found object sculptures by Haitian artist Guyodo at new Florida CraftArt show.
  11. Photorealist style exhibit by Richard Heipp opens at Holocaust Museum

    Visual Arts

    Richard Heipp, like Suzanne Camp Crosby, is a college art professor, teaching painting at the University of Florida. He works in the photorealist style, using vintage photographs as a starting point for collage-type layers of images. His narratives are much darker, though, addressing issues of Jewishness in Nazi Germany through a contemporary lens. A group of his work opens at the Holocaust Museum, 55 Fifth St. S, St. Petersburg, on Saturday. Shown is Germanic Guilt Symbols II: Civil Defense Triptych, 1990, shaped acrylic on plastic panels. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $16 adults, $14 seniors, $10 college students and $8 youths younger than 18. or (727) 820-0100....

    Richard Heippe, Germanic Guilt Symbols II: Civil Defense Triptych, 1990, shaped acrylic on plastic panels.
  12. Exhibit celebrates career of Suzanne Camp Crosby

    Visual Arts

    Suzanne Camp Crosby has been an inspiration in the Tampa Bay region as a first-rate photographer whose work has been exhibited in museums and galleries and as a teacher who has shared her craft with generations of students. She retires April 30 as a full-time faculty member of Hillsborough Community College at its Ybor campus, and a show of her work, opening Jan. 12, celebrates her career.

    "Assembly Required" shows us the broadstroke generalities of Crosby's work in which she manipulates a scene, adding objects or people to create a narrative. But she uses great variety and imagination, just like all good storytellers. ...

    Past Time #1 by Suzanne Camp Crosby, a photographer who is retiring after sharing her inspiration with generations of students.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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....

    Mayan folk art of the Day of the Dead Nativity scene at the From Mayan Hands Gallery on Wednesday, December 12, 2014. Dr. Robert Drapkin a prominent art collector and donor to local art museums will open his art gallery having a limited collection of Mayan folk art on sale at the From Mayan Hands Gallery on 2006 2nd Avenue South in St. Petersburg.