Tampa art museum director leaving to lead California museum
By Philip Morgan, Times Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 21, 2014 1:15pm
TAMPA — Todd Smith, whose nearly six-year tenure as executive director of the Tampa Museum of Art saw exhibits including Degas and Matisse, is leaving to head the Orange County Museum of Art in California.
Orange County hired Smith as its chief executive officer after an eight-month search, the museum announced Wednesday.
"He was the perfect candidate," said spokeswoman Kirsten Schmidt.
July 3 is Smith's last day at the Tampa museum. He starts at the Orange County museum Aug. 4.
"These transitions are always tough decisions," said Smith, who oversaw the rise and operation of a new 66,000-square-foot museum on the Hillsborough River after arriving in 2008.
Smith, 48, views his biggest accomplishments in Tampa as bringing world-class exhibits to the city and making the museum more accessible to the public, offering such deals as opening the museum on Friday nights for whatever visitors want to pay.
"We've done quite a lot in the last six years," he said.
He said the museum is financially sound and exhibitions have been planned out for several years. So the main challenge the Tampa board of directors and new leader face is "figuring out what they want to focus on in terms of growth of the museum."
Curator Seth Pevnick will take over as acting director while the museum searches for a successor, Smith said.
He was lured to the Orange County museum partly because it is about to undertake a big move — from Newport Beach to Costa Mesa — and he said he likes the challenge of that.
"It's sort of time for a new big project for me," Smith said.
Smith also was attracted to the museum's focus on early contemporary California art and its international exhibits that explore the art of the Pacific Rim, he said.
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