A boyhood love of cowboy movies isn’t unusual, but Tom James, now chairman emeritus of Raymond James Financial, turned his love into a lifetime of art collecting and then founded a museum to house part of the collection that he and his wife, Mary, have amassed. The James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art in St. Petersburg opened in April 2018, holding 400 paintings and sculptures, a bit more than 10 percent of the James collection. (Most of the rest of the collection fills the Raymond James corporate headquarters.) Word about the museum got around, and one day in August the OLLI Shutterbugs went to see for themselves.
We met Marianne Sabadish, our guide for a docent tour, beside a bronze flute player in the lobby’s striking two-story sculpture court. That’s she below, standing next to the Paul Pletka painting of a slightly surrealistic buffalo dance. She told us how the building was originally a Macy’s store and then a call center before it was bought by Tom James and completely redone. Then she led us up to the second level and the permanent collection, displayed in large galleries. (The entire museum occupies 80,000 square feet.)
There we were greeted by more first-rate sculptures, like John Coleman’s triple study of the chiefs Gall, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, the victors at Little Bighorn. Or consider the Native American woman in a pictorial leather tunic, painted all bronze. The collection has some good paintings like a buffalo dancer by Fritz Scholder, who was given a one-man show at the National Museum of the American Indian on the Mall in Washington.
Let’s not forget those cowboy movies. There’s a sculpture of an unmistakable John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn riding hell for leather, and another sculpture of a prospector passionately kissing a scantily clad dance-hall hostess, a sight never seen outside a movie set. Finally, Mary James’s collection of Southwestern jewelry, mostly silver, has its own display room.
The James Museum holds quite a bit more high-quality work. But don’t just take my word for it. If you want to learn the name of every work of art pictured here and the artists, visit the museum: https://thejamesmuseum.org.
Jim Hurst is a retired trauma surgeon, interested in landscape and wildlife photography. He and his wife, Suzanne, try to visit at least one National Park a year.
Rich Edwards is a retired high school teacher from New York, who enjoys photography, golf and motorcycling. He taught English and journalism, and in night school he taught photography and darkroom techniques.
Shelly Belzer, a retired New York Times editor, has been a member of OLLI-USF since 2012. In addition to leading the Shutterbugs SIG, he is a founding member of the OLLI Hikers SIG. He has taken courses on art, poetry, China, Spanish and Hillsborough County’s wild lands. Rich Edwards provided us with this new profile photo.