September 2012


1. The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts is a relatively young museum, yet you have established yourself very well, with over 50 exhibitions and over 800 current members. What have been the most important factors in your success? What did you pay particular attention to at the beginning that others perhaps might overlook?

Starting with important exhibitions and no rent was the perfect combination for our start. By having critically acclaimed shows with photographers and subjects that had broad appeal and keeping a very tight control on costs allowed us to gain a following that is now measured internationally. The other most important aspect of our successful start was the development of our board of directors and board of trustees. Knowing what I know now, I would say that a new non-profit should always be thinking of board development as a critical and ongoing process.


2. What compelled you to begin a museum dedicated solely to photographic arts in Tampa?

Our founders realized that a community will be a better place to live with exposure to good art. They decided that photography as an art form was a perfect way to create a very accessible platform to bring more art to the community. They realized that art makes people talk about their similarities and differences, gives people a chance to imagine, to open their minds to the possibilities.

3. Your new location is quite stunning. Has being in such an architecturally significant location changed the number of, size of, or choices in exhibitions?

Yes! However, first one must understand that a great space announces that great art is inside. Once you are inside, you find two floors that are also divided to allow us to run two or more major exhibitions simultaneously. This permits staggered opening receptions as well as closing parties – something is always happening there to connect the visitor to the art.

4. In your permanent collection, is there a focus more toward vintage or contemporary, black-and-white or color, regional or international artists? Give us an idea of your acquisition process.

Candidly, our acquisitions still rely on donations from collectors and other individuals. Needless to say, we do not accept every offer.

5. Your Children’s Literacy Through Photography program is a wonderful opportunity for children who otherwise may not have the benefit of a creative outlet. I particularly like that you hold an exhibition of their work. Could you tell us more about the Children’s Literacy Through Photography program?

It has been one of the most rewarding programs to watch develop. There are many non-profits that are centered on “at risk” children. Those programs are important but many have sports programs – very few have an artistic and learning component. Photography is a simple way to open the door to creativity for these young people and then combining it with their written expression makes it very powerful. The pictures that we have seen have been quite good but the writing that accompanies each image is even better – revealing a world that would otherwise remain hidden. The variations that we can accomplish with this program are extensive.

6. FMOPA also sponsors workshops, safaris, and camps for adults. Please tell us a bit about your instructors, and also about these three learning events – how do they differ, what do photographers bring away from them?

We have world-class instructors with various levels of instruction to help those who want to learn more about photography. There is a class or event for everyone at every skill level. We invite anyone interested in photography to join in the fun!



7. The diversity in your past exhibitions is quite attractive. What goes into choosing your shows?

The success of the past exhibitions is the hard work of our volunteer exhibition committee. The reason I say “hard work” is that many of the exhibitions were borrowed from collectors and dealers, and in some cases one exhibition may come from multiple sources. The exhibition committee has had to choose exhibitions with all of the various complications of what the mission of the museum is perceived to be at any one time and then balance this against more mundane issues such as cost and availability. The overall effort was to bring to the museum images that were from not just well known photographers but photography that is deemed to be important because of the image itself! I think that with having an open mind, the exhibition committee combined great judgment with availability and hard work.



8. Mario Algaze opens an exhibition October 18th. What can you share with us about his upcoming show?

Answer provided by Joanne Milani, FMoPA Board of Trustees: We are looking forward to mounting the Mario Algaze exhibition, Cuba 1999-2000. It runs from October 18 through January 6, 2013. Forty (possibly 41) of Mario’s exquisite black-and-white photographs will be on view. His catalog and a book on his work will be available for sale, and he will be attending the opening reception. Tampa has a large Cuban community – most of whose ancestors arrived in Tampa with the cigar industry in the early 1900s. There is also growing trade and tourist relations with Cuba – given Tampa’s proximity to the island nation. Mario was able to visit his homeland for the first time in 1999 at the age of 52 (he was 13 when his family left Cuba). Therefore his feelings for Cuba are those of an exile trying to understand the homeland that has never left his heart. My essay on Algaze begins with the words below. I hope this expresses the heart of his show.

“I know how men in exile feed on dreams”
Look, but don’t touch. Reach, but don’t grasp. Dream, but don’t wake up. That is how an exile feels about the homeland he cannot reclaim, and that is how Mario Algaze feels about Cuba. Born in Cuba in 1947, he remembers a happy childhood in the well-to-do Art Deco Havana neighborhood of Miramar. He can recall “the smell of seaweed and saltwater washing on the rocks.” It was a magical time. He remembers his mother taking him to the ballet, and he remembers seeing the Alec Guinness movie, Our Man in Havana being filmed on the streets of the city. All this ended when he was 13 years old. That’s when he was brought to Miami by his parents. He was 52 years old before he was able to return.

9. You have an impressive roster of board of directors, trustees, staff and volunteers. How important are these people to the future of the museum?

The strength of our boards, staff and volunteers is critical to our success. As I said above, I would advise that an ongoing effort of board development is critical for new ideas and perspectives. Young or old, wealthy or not, well connected or not, it does not matter. If they have an interest in the art and contributing to our community, they are candidates. Our board meetings are open to anyone to visit and decide. We have more people who want to be on our board of directors than we have slots but there is always an opportunity for anyone to contribute their time and energy to the museum. Our board is diverse and welcoming. We invite everyone’s participation in our museum – it is up to those who want to be a part of it.

10. What are the future plans for the museum? Any new workshops or programs on the drawing table? In what direction would you like to see the museum grow in the next decade? 

This is a wonderful question! We have a strategic plan in place that envisions the museum as continuing to be a place for important art and a place that serves the community in many other ways through art – connecting people with each other and within themselves. Ten years from now we want to mount important photographic art (from the well known, the not so well known, and the everyday photographer) as we have historically done and engage ever larger portions of the community in helping us to create a better, more tolerant and safer world.