The Tampa Museum of Art announced Thursday that the Vinik Family Foundation will make a $5 million gift to the museum’s endowment. The Vinik Family Foundation is a private foundation created and managed by Jeff and Penny Vinik.
Jeff Vinik owns the Tampa Bay Lightning and is the developer behind Tampa’s $3 billion Water Street Tampa project that includes Sparkman Wharf. The Vinik Family Foundation is known for bringing free immersive art experiences to the public, as it did with the Beach Tampa and the Art of the Brick.
The gift was made to support the position of executive director, with a title that will be known as the Penny and Jeff Vinik executive director.
Michael Tomor currently holds that position. The Viniks are longtime supporters of the museum and Penny Vinik has served on its board in several capacities, including leading the executive search committee that resulted in hiring Tomor. She is currently the vice chair of its board of trustees.
“We’ve been so excited and inspired by Dr. Michael Tomor’s leadership and vision for the future, in particular his passion for securing the viability of the museum for generations to come," Penny Vinik said in a news release. “We want to ensure the stability and financial security of this position.”
According to Debra Williams, president of the museum’s foundation board, endowment gifts are invested permanently and only the earnings are used for the donor’s intention. The money remains intact and will generate income for the museum’s operations.
“We are grateful to Penny and Jeff Vinik and the Vinik Family Foundation for the value they place on the museum and its leadership,” she said in the release.
While the gift is the largest donation the museum’s endowment has ever received, the Viniks have a history of being generous to the institution.
In 2018, the Vinik Family Foundation loaned the museum Love is Calling, one of iconic Japanese artist’s Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms. The exhibit transformed a gallery in the museum into a mirrored room with polka-dotted soft sculptures that rose from the floor and hung from the ceiling while changing colors. The foundation sponsored the museum’s Season of Love that year, which included “Robert Indiana: A Sculpture Retrospective” and “Aphrodite Reimagined,” for which artist Patricia Cronin created a monumental sculpture of the Greek goddess, now part of the museum’s permanent collection.
“We are very proud of the Tampa Museum of Art as an institution and as a vital part of the city in which we live and work,” Jeff Vinik said in the release. “Our gift is a way to celebrate the museum’s upcoming centennial anniversary and support TMA directors as they continue to lead one of Tampa’s most acclaimed cultural institutions.”
Jeff Vinik also is part of FBN Partners, a group of local investors who in 2017 loaned $12 million to Times Publishing Co., which owns the Times.
The foundation has also installed art in other places around the city. In 2016, it presented the Beach Tampa, an installation that filled the Amalie Arena with 1.2 million white balls. More than 100,000 people showed up to jump and swim in the balls.
In 2017, it hosted artist Nathan Sawaya’s impressive Lego sculptures with the Art of the Brick exhibition at the District3 event venue. Visitors saw 100 sculptures, from a life-size T. Rex skeleton to a re-creation of the Mona Lisa.
Tomor joined the museum in 2015 from the El Paso Museum of Art in Texas. Since then, he’s implemented a full lineup of educational programming, including year-round studio art for adults and children, free admission to college students and K-12 tours and established partnerships with the University of South Florida and University of Tampa.
He also conceived of the Conversations with the Collection lecture series to bring relevancy to pieces in the museum’s collection of Greek and Roman antiquities. And the museum’s mission to borrow contemporary works of art has been realized with “Abstract Expressionism: A Social Revolution, Selections from the Haskell Collection” earlier this year and “Jean-Michel Basquiat: One Master Artist: Two Masterpieces,” on display now.
Tomor said the gift and putting the Vinik name on the position would ensure its long term success.
“It is going to have a substantial impact on attracting strong leadership for generations," he said. “It’s a sign of good practice in the community that makes the statement that the position is important.”