Just weeks after its first executive director departed, the Tom and Mary James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art has named Laura Hine as the new executive director.
The St. Petersburg museum opened in April 2018. It contains 400 works of art from the more than 3,000-piece collection of Tom and Mary James. The 88,000-square-foot museum showcases 30,000 square feet of gallery space.
Its first director, Bernice Chu, announced in July that she was leaving to help establish the International African American Museum in Charleston, S.C. Her last day was Aug. 2.
Hine had been the project director of the development of the museum, coordinating the architecture, construction and commercial spaces on the museum’s block on Central Avenue. This relationship led Tom James to approach Hine about taking on the role of executive director.
Hine said she was surprised at the offer at first, but after reflecting on how well they had worked together on the four-year collaboration to get the museum built, it seemed like a natural fit.
Her background is varied and extensive. A U.S. Naval Academy graduate with a degree in aerospace engineering, she served six years active duty as a surface warfare officer with multiple deployments. She also served on a team with the United Nations that led humanitarian efforts in southeast Asia.
Hine received an MBA from the University of South Florida while working for the Beck Group leading construction projects. While working on the James Museum project, she founded the not-for-profit group Friends of North Shore Elementary.
She’s married to Hank Hine, executive director of the Dalí Museum, also located in St. Petersburg.
“Naturally I am thrilled that my wife will enter into this project to advance art and advance our community,” he said in a news release announcing her new position.
Chu’s leadership in organizing the museum gave a solid foundation to its daily operations. Now the focus for the executive director will be growth and long-term vitality through strategic planning. There are also plans to establish a board of trustees.
In a news release, Tom James said that Hine’s business sense and interpersonal skills are qualities that will ensure success for the museum.
“I couldn’t be more pleased to continue working with her in this capacity,” he said.
Hine says she’s eager to learn more about the artwork in the museum from curator Emily Kapes and the docents who volunteer there. She also anticipates a great working relationship with the staff that encourages an exchange of ideas.
“I’m very excited to take on a leadership role,” she said. “I see myself as a leader and I love teamwork.”