YBOR CITY — It may be a brand new location, but the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts fits right in on Seventh Avenue.
The museum recently opened in its new space on the ground floor of the historic Kress building, which is occupied by a group of other creatives dubbed the Kress Collective.
The move from the downtown location it occupied for more than a decade was announced in January and had been planned for months before. While the previous space in the Rivergate Plaza’s Cube was perfectly fine, patrons had difficulty finding the museum.
Now, amid bustling Ybor City cigar bars and restaurants, visibility is no longer an issue.
Also new is the museum’s leadership, which is shared by executive consultant Wendy Leigh and executive curator Robin O’Dell.
Longtime director Zora Carrier left last year to helm Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture and the Arts and interim director Deirdre Powell left to work for Visit Florida.
Leigh spent 20 years as the vice president of education at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts and launched the LOFT Theatre, the Shimberg Playhouse and the Patel Conservatory. She was tapped by Gregory Morgan, the museum’s vice chair, to help facilitate the move.
Leigh said that Powell made the transition easy and with the existing team already in place, it was exciting for her because she’s familiar with running a nonprofit.
But, she said, the content was new — she doesn’t have an expertise in photography. So it was a no-brainer to tap O’Dell, whom she’s known for decades and who previously worked for the museum as a curator.
“I have a recipe for success,” Leigh said.
For the opening exhibition, the museum’s inaugural exhibition in 2001, “Masters of Black & White,” was the inspiration. A sequel happened in 2008, so with the move to Ybor, “Icons of Black & White” was a fitting theme.
The vintage photos especially work in the historic building, gleaming from white walls. There are works by Ansel Adams, William Wegman, Herb Snitzer, Dorothea Lange and an iconic photo of Marilyn Monroe by Philippe Halsman.
The exhibition was drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, contributions from the Robert and Chitranee Drapkin Collection and the Trenam Law Collection, as well as an anonymous loan.
On display in the Community Gallery is “Prodigy: Storytelling through Photography,” the result of the museum’s outreach and education programs held throughout the summer. It was a partnership with the University Area CDC’s Prodigy Cultural Arts Program that teaches photography to at-risk students.
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The outcome is delightful, colorful and inspiring. The museum does similar programs with seniors.
There are more plans to come for the museum, including a gift shop and some sort of food or beverage concept.
Leigh plans to track how many people come in to the museum and how they found out about it.
“We want feedback,“ she said. “We want to be here for the community ... And we’re really open to sponsorships because I think people who invest in the arts are investing in something that is the heart and culture of a city.”
Despite the word “Florida” in the title, Leigh wants to make sure people know the museum showcases works from artists from around the world, not just from or of Florida.
That being said, the next exhibition opening in December will be from iconic Florida photographer Carlton Ward. And O’Dell said an exhibition of Ybor through the years is being planned.
Leigh and O’Dell both agree that the museum will benefit from Ybor City’s local and tourist traffic. The museum held its International Photography Competition at Tampa International Airport over the summer, with plans to hold it there again next week. That kind of exposure could drive more visitors to the museum.
Leigh said a couple from Orlando came for the opening weekend and booked three nights at a hotel in Ybor City. She considered it proof that the arts can be an economic engine.
O’Dell wants to keep a rack of cards from other galleries and arts organizations in the building in the museum’s lobby to encourage visitors to check them out. She thinks of the museum as the building’s anchor tenant.
“We’re literally on the ground floor of the expansion of arts in the area,” she said.
What to know if you go to the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts
An opening reception for “Icons of Black & White” happens from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28. $10-$12. 1630 E Seventh Ave., Tampa. 813-221-2222. fmopa.org.