More than a decade after moving into a new building on Tampa’s Riverwalk, the Tampa Museum of Art announced plans for renovations that will expand its education programs and gallery space.
The renovations were completely funded by private donations, including the museum’s board of trustees, its foundation board and corporate partners. The museum did not disclose an exact cost, but said $12 million dollars had been raised.
A strategic plan for renovations started in 2017, part of which was a space analysis. It found that there was about 25,000 square feet of the 70,000 square foot building that could be renovated to become publicly accessible space.
“I’m thrilled,” said Michael Tomor, the museum’s Penny and Jeff Vinik executive director. He said the museum is undersized for the community it serves. He credits the board for moving forward on the renovation.
Tomor said the museum is excited for changes coming to downtown Tampa. “We are a very strong economic engine for the downtown area,” he said. “We’re going to be able to provide such greater quality of life programs for people who choose to live downtown and want to work and play downtown.”
A significant part of the renovation is the creation of an education center. Renovating existing classrooms, storage and the Dickey Family Lecture Hall will quadruple existing classroom space. There will be a suite of classrooms, including one for multimedia arts.
The entire south side of the museum under an overhang with glazed windows, so the view from the classrooms will be out to Curtis Hixon Park and people outside can see activity going on.
A glass-enclosed lobby with its own entrance will be built for the education center.
Four more galleries will be added by moving all administrative offices to a renovated space on the third floor and by making better use of storage. That will bring the total to 10 galleries.
The museum’s main entrance will be moved to the west side, removing the entrances on the north and south sides of the building. The existing atrium will be transformed into a sculpture gallery, complete with gallery lighting.
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The museum store will shift from its current location and occupy the space where the cafe and visitor’s service desk are now, doubling its size.
Renovations will begin in May. The museum is partnering with the award-winning New York architecture firm Weiss/Manfredi. Skanska USA will handle engineering and infrastructure oversight. It will happen in three phases and the museum will remain open during construction.
Tomor said all plans offer more space for social distancing. He explained that museum already had a strong recirculation system — even before the pandemic — for preservation of the artworks.
The focus is on getting the education center completed first, since the museum’s education programs are a key element to its mission.
“It was very noticeable to me that the amount of space dedicated to education in this museum was really under, when you consider what other museums our size are doing,” said Tomor, who was hired in 2015. “If we’re going to do a really robust education program here we have to have the space to do it.”
Tomor said that when he came on as director, he had to think about expanding the education programs with limited space. The museum got money from Hillsborough County to expand their program offsite. It currently has programs at five locations, including the Jewish Community Center, the Firehouse Cultural Center in Ruskin and the Arts Factory in Riverview.
In-house studio art programs would grow significantly after the renovation, Tomor said. Additional programs include lectures and Connections, which brings small groups of people dealing with memory impairment, PTSD, depression and addiction recovery into the gallery to discuss art.
Tomor, who implemented the program, calls Connections “reverse lectures” because participants are asked to share their views on art in a friendly environment where there are no wrong answers.
The museum also has art therapy programs for the homeless, foster children, victims of domestic abuse or human trafficking and immigrant families. Tomor said these programs will expand with the renovation and allow more groups in while observing social distancing guidelines.
“One of the challenges we have is that there is simply not enough space to have people cycling in and out, so this renovation is an opportunity for education in the galleries,” he said.