Leepa-Rattner Museum celebrates 15 artful years in Tarpon Springs

I wasn’t there when the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art opened in Tarpon Springs, FL in 2002. However, I was there last Sunday when they celebrated their 15 year anniversary with free admission. Thanks to a fabulous museum tour led by Marcia Makris, I learned a lot of interesting facts about the museum.

1. Leepa and Rattner are the names of two different artists whose work is displayed in the museum

Abraham Rattner was a figurative expressionist living and working in Paris in the 1920’s and 1930’s. European Modernism was in its heyday, and Paris was center stage. Rattner’s contemporaries included Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, and Fernand Léger; all were living in Paris at the time.

Rattner fled Paris in 1940 to escape anti-Semitism as WWII approached. Rumor has it he caught the last boat out to America before the Nazis arrived in Paris. Back in New York City, he continued working as an artist until his death in 1978. His work was heavily influenced by cubism, his Jewish faith, and current events. Looking through his work, spread between two galleries at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, it is clear that Abraham Rattner deserves a place among the modern masters.

Abraham Rattner’s “Parade” depicts crowds protesting the Vietnam War.

Allen Leepa was Abraham Rattner’s stepson. Although Allen Leepa was also an artist, he is more well-known for his philanthropy work. Leepa studied at Columbia University in New York and went on to become an art professor at Michigan State University. Upon his retirement, Leepa moved to Tarpon Springs, FL and donated the Rattner art collection along with an extra $2 million to St. Petersburg College (SPC). The college used the money to build the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art.

2. The museum also displays work from Rattner’s contemporaries in Paris

It wasn’t uncommon for artists to trade their work with fellow artists in 1920’s and 1930’s Paris. Because of this, much of the artwork in Abraham Rattner’s collection was from his contemporaries and friends. For instance, Marc Chagall gave his etching, Bad Elements, to Rattner as a gift. This etching is currently displayed in the temporary exhibit, Rattner’s Contemporaries in Paris, alongside Leger’s Woman with a Jug, Picasso’s Lobster, and Max Ernst’s Abstract Figures with Easel. In addition to showing work from Rattner’s contemporaries in Paris, the exhibit also displays work from artists who influenced Rattner, including Renoir, Édouard Manet, Paul Cézanne, and Paul Signac. Rattner’s Contemporaries in Paris will be on display at the Leepa-Rattner Museum through June 4, 2017.

3. The museum was designed by Hoffman Architects to look like a ship

Rattner always thought traditional art galleries were a bit stuffy, so his stepson commissioned something less traditional. Taking the local sponge and fishing industries as inspiration, Edward Hoffman of Tarpon Spring’s Hoffman Architects PA, designed the museum to “resemble the bow of a ship.” Hoffman Architects won the American Institute of Architect’s H. Dean Rowe FAIA Award of Excellence for their design in 2002.

4. The museum includes a hands-on, interactive gallery

In keeping with the museum’s nontraditional theme, there is a gallery in the Leepa-Rattner Museum where you can actually touch some of the artwork and create your own artwork. The museum’s interactive gallery is clearly geared towards children, but adults will likely appreciate it as well. At the entrance, about a half dozen large strips of fabric hang from the ceiling down to the floor, displaying a reproduction of Rattner’s April Showers that guests can actually walk through and touch.

Once inside the gallery, you will find many opportunities for children to create their own artwork. The gallery is stocked with markers, paper, sculptural toys, and a bookshelf full of art books written for children.

5. They showcase work from contemporary Florida artists

The gallery started showing work from local artists fairly recently. The Made in Florida gallery is currently featuring work from Hillsborough County artists, including Suzanne Camp Crosby‘s Cibachrome photographs, a hand-painted silver print from Rebecca Sexton Larson, ceramics from Jim Roche and Linda McRae, metal works from Monica Eastman and Jack King, Barton La Teer Gilmore‘s RA-4 color photos, a Taylor Ikin watercolor, and more. A diversity of mediums and styles were presented here, giving a well-rounded introduction to the type of artwork coming out of Hillsborough County, FL.

Theo Wujcik’s Dine’s Dilemma (pictured above) was inspired by wallpaper patterns.

6. There are 2-3 changing exhibits every 2 months

Currently on Exhibit, from January 15th through February 5th

East Meets West: New Japanese Traditions

East Meets West presents the artwork of two different Japanese artists: Keisuke Teshima and Tokuma Takebe. Keisuke Teshima is known for his one-stroke dragon paintings, a technique which he demonstrated at the Leepa Rattner Museum this week. The technique, called Sumi-e, involves painting ink on paper using a handmade brush. Tokuma Takebe, by contrast, is known for his wood sculptures, some of which are pictured below. Both Sumi-e and wood sculpture are popular media in Japan, making this exhibit a nice introduction to Japanese art.

Miniature Art Society of Florida’s Annual Show

The Florida Miniature Art Society is a collection of artists working on a smaller scale – a 1/6th scale to be exact. In order to be considered miniature, a piece of artwork must measure less than 25 square inches, and depict a subject at no larger than 1/6th its actual size. Due to the small size of the artwork, Miniature Art shows display a disproportionately large amount of artwork in a single exhibit. The 42nd Annual International Miniature Art Show, at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art through February 5th, includes 49 boards (like the one pictured on the left) with about 12-15 miniatures per board. That’s over 600 works of art in a single gallery. I say works of art because miniature artists work in a variety of mediums. I would have expected mostly pencil drawings, since a sharpened pencil is incredibly precise. Although colored pencil is a very popular medium for miniature art, so are watercolors, oils, and acrylics.

Kathy Pollak demonstrating her work at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art

Coming up, on February 19th

Endangered Landscapes: America’s National Lands in Transition

Rick Braveheart is an American landscape photographer with a love of America’s Parks. He has completed 11 artist-in-residence programs through the National Park Service, allowing him to live and work in 11 of our national parks, for about one month at a time. Endangered Landscapes features Braveheart’s National Parks photographs in celebration of the National Park Services centennial. This travelling exhibit began in Park City, Utah, in August 2016, and will be at the Leepa-Rattner museum in February 2017. For additional information on the exhibit, check out Rick Braveheart’s website @ http://www.rickbraveheart.com/national-park-photography-exhibit.html.

Aquiferious: Florida’s Springs

AQUIFERious at HCC Ybor

Aquiferious is a great introduction to Florida’s Springs and how we can protect them. I saw this exhibit last year at the Hillsborough Community College (HCC) Ybor Art Gallery in Tampa, FL and raved about it HERE. In a few weeks, this exemplary collection of paintings and photographs will be on display at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs, FL. Margaret Ross Tolbert does a great job of combining brilliant shades of blue to create the impression of flowing Florida spring water. Her paintings, in combination with photographs of Florida’s underwater caves, will show you a world underwater that most of us will never experience in person.

Visiting the Leepa-Rattner Museum was, in a way, like visiting 1920’s Paris, 1960’s New York City, and present-day Japan. Through its combination of permanent and temporary exhibits, the museum presents a first-rate initiation into the worlds of modern and contemporary art.

Categories: Arts & Culture, Tarpon SpringsTags: ,

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