By Lynn Whitelaw
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Building Legacies: Architecture & Design
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Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art
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On January 22, 2002, the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art (LRMA) opened its doors to the public in the architecturally significant Fine Arts Building located on the Tarpon Springs Campus of St. Petersburg College. This was little more than three months after the events of 9/11 and during an anthrax scare. Throughout 2022, LRMA has been acknowledging its 20th anniversary with a series of focused exhibitions, while dealing with the issues of a subsiding pandemic.
In its twenty-year history, the Leepa-Rattner, like cultural institutions throughout the country, has experienced the threats of the Great Recession and periods of unrest and challenges to its future. Here’s to the hope that the next 20 years will not be as turbulent, while acknowledging a truth. . . the “Arts” – the creative urge that defines what makes us human – will continue to champion and advance our humanity.
Our role, more important now than ever, is to value and appreciate what the arts represent, to ensure their support, and to incorporate the arts into our lives.
Under the theme of Building Legacies: Architecture & Design, the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art has on view a series of five engaging exhibitions to conclude its year-long celebration. These exhibitions include –
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- Edward C. Hoffman, Jr. A.I.A. | “Visioning Structure”
– through February 12
- Architectural Commissions by Abraham Rattner and Contemporary Art + Architecture from the LRMA Collection
– through December 16
- Joseph Constantino Photography – through February 12
- The Structure of Prints: The Dorothy Mitchell Collection
– through March 12
. . .
Most of the exhibits are drawn from the extensive LRMA permanent collection, which has grown extensively over the past 20 years to include major private donations, the acquisition of the former Gulf Coast Museum of Art collection, and targeted additions of artwork that enhance the Museum’s collecting foci of 20th and 21st century art, including printmaking, Florida art, fine arts crafts, and repositories for selected artists.
The 20-year evolution of the museum and its collection has advanced the importance of the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art as a significant “cultural gem” on the West Coast of Florida.
The highlight exhibition at LRMA (on view through December 16) is a retrospective of the 40+ year career of award-winning architect Edward C. Hoffman (American, b. 1951) of Hoffman Architects, P.A. Through architectural sketches, presentation boards, models, prints and awards, the exhibition celebrates the design legacy of Tarpon Springs’ favorite son.
Perhaps best known as the architect of the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, which won the prestigious H. Dean Rowe, FAIA Award of Excellence in 2002 from the Tampa Bay Chapter of the A.I.A. (American Institute of Architects) and recognition in 2012 from the Florida A.I.A Chapter for its Florida Architecture: 100 Years, 100 Places competition, Hoffman has designed numerous significant buildings throughout the Tampa Bay area.
He is often recognized for the 17 elementary schools built in Pinellas County (known as the “Hoffman” concept), which have been praised for their design for student engagement and addressing issues of safety. Among his award-winning projects are schools, an environmental education center, commercial and religious projects, and residential homes.
Visioning Structure traces Ed Hoffman’s career and his aesthetic evolution for clean-lined modernist designs, protected natural light for energy efficiency, sustainability in design and materials, and concern for integration with the nature environment. These attributes have served to define both Hoffman’s architectural and artistic expression.
The Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art is honored to host this tribute and recognition of Edward C. Hoffman, Jr.
The Center Gallery at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art complements the Hoffman exhibit by focusing on significant architectural commissions awarded to namesake artist Abraham Rattner in the late 1950s.
In 1957, Rattner designed mosaic tile columns and large tapestries for Fairmount Temple Anshe Chesed in Cleveland, Ohio. This led to other commissions to design a mosaic mural of St. Francis for the facade of a chapel at St. Leonard’s Friary and College in Centerville, Ohio and a stained-glass window installed in the DeWaters Art Center in Flint, Michigan.
Between 1957 and 1960 Rattner received his most important architectural commission to design a large stained-glass window for the mid-century modernist Chicago Loop Synagogue being built in downtown Chicago. The massive 30 ft. by 40 ft. window represents three years of Rattner’s life dedicated to design, fabrication in France, and installation. It remains one of the most important modernist stained-glass windows in the United States.
In the Changing Exhibitions North Gallery, Curator/Director Christine Renc-Carter has thoughtfully selected a sampling of artists who explore the theme of Architecture & Design in sculpture, painting, photography and printmaking.
Drawn from the LRMA permanent collection, Contemporary Art + Architecture presents engaging work by Florida, national and international artists who explore designs of structure, reimagined space, and architectural reference. Local favorites like Charles Parkhill, Rocky Bridges and Jack King include reclaimed materials in their sculptures while two-dimensional artists include Richard Florsheim, Joseph Weinzettle and David McKirdy provide new perspectives on futurist, urban and modernist design.
The cast of artists in this exhibit create a gallery of ideas for viewers to dialogue how art can view modern life through design and artistic structure.
The exhibition Architecture + Design: Joseph Constantino Photography, shown in the Works on Paper Gallery (on view through February 12, 2023), documents four noted structures in the Tampa Bay area. The 14 solarized black-and-white photographs allow us to appreciate the architecture, angles, and interesting perspectives of these buildings in unique ways.
The last exhibition under the Building Legacies: Architecture & Design theme is a grouping of 15 large format screen prints proportionally shown in the former Interactive Gallery. The selection is from a significant 2005 gift by donor Dorothy Mitchell of 55 experimental prints produced at Berghoff-Cowden Editions in Tampa between 1988 and 1998.
Structure of Prints: The Dorothy Mitchell Collection (on view through March 12, 2023) includes work by seven nationally and internationally known artists including Brad Davis, Frank Faulkner, Sam Gilliam, Roberto Juarez, Miriam Schapiro, George Sugarman and Robert Zakanitch.
Each artist was invited to work at the female-owned printmaking workshop and encouraged to push the screen-printing medium into new artistic directions. The story of their careers, approaches and the processes used at Berghoff-Cowden Editions are nicely conveyed on wall text, labels and a gallery guide.
While these five galleries, plus related works on exhibit in the museum’s lobby and open areas, represent the theme in the current Building Legacies: Architecture & Design exhibitions, the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art also has six permanent exhibition spaces to explore during a visit.
These include three galleries representing the family of artists – Abraham Rattner, Esther Gentle and Allen Leepa – and their artistic responses to the history and stylistic developments of the 20th century.
Additionally, the Elemental gallery explores contemporary fine art crafts and the two Made in Florida galleries are dedicated to artists in the LRMA collection who have worked in Florida over the past 50 years.
In 1947 W.H. Auden wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning poem Age of Anxiety about the trials of the modern post-war era and concerns over isolation and identity in an increasingly shifting world. Our current milieu often feels this same sense of angst – however, the human creative spirit provides inspiration, direction and often addresses issues of the human condition.
The exhibitions currently on view at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art provide that respite that we need to celebrate and contemplate that which roots us to our humanity. Please consider a visit and enjoy!
Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art
Tarpon Springs Campus, St. Petersburg College
600 E. Klosterman Road
Tarpon Springs FL 34689
.10 am to 5 pm Tuesday through Saturday
and 1 – 5 pm on Sunday
Admission is free, donations are welcome
Lynn Whitelaw is the retired founding director
of the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art