Founded in 2018, the James Museum includes around 400 works of Western and wildlife art, including bronze sculptures, paintings, and fine art.
“I think art is really the shortest distance between one person and another. It’s a way we express, communicate, feel, that we can create empathy among others,” says executive director Laura Hine.
The collection has been assembled over the past 50 years by Tom and Mary James. Some people may recognize Tom as the president of Raymond James Financial. Tom is originally from St. Petersburg, but would spend summers and winters in the west. Tom and Mary loved filling their home with works of art representing the places they spent their time. And one of the most important things for them was to purchase works of art from living artists.
“They appreciate the idea of buying art from living artists so they can continue making art,” says Hine.
For this reason, the museum is primarily a contemporary collection. It may come as a surprise because when many people hear the American West, they think of iconic artists like Charles Marion Russell and Frederic Remington.
The advantage of presenting contemporary artists is that they have the opportunity to tell their story firsthand. Let’s find out why an artist painted what he did or what he is representing with his art of him.
It also allows artists to participate in person in the museum’s events and performances. The talks of the artists in the museum lead local and Western artists to talk about their art. And the exhibits are just the beginning of what the museum has to offer. They have family-friendly events and entertainment programs in addition to artist talks, such as live music and whiskey tastings.
With 30,000 square feet of galleries, it’s truly a journey through Western life.
The museum starts at the Early West gallery, goes into Native Life, Native Artists, Frontier, Wildlife, and ends with a New West gallery. They also have a special 6,000 square foot exhibition space where they can showcase other artists and collections.
A special exhibit entitled “Far From Home, Native American College Stories” was recently unveiled in space. It tells the tragic story of the forced removal of Native American children from their homes, their placement in boarding schools and the cutting of their hair to assimilate them to white culture.
It is essential for Tom and Mary that the stories depicted are told through the eyes of all those affected by the expansion of the United States. So to ensure that 25% of the collection comes from Native Artists.
The museum’s mission is to provide experiences that inspire human connection and transformation through art, depicting the landscape and history of the people of the American West and the wildlife of the world.
This fall they are preparing for their next special exhibition, “Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West”. Leading the way is curator Carolyn Mazloomi to help share the story of the black experience in the American West. Sharing the voices of those not often found on the front lines is one of the James Museum’s core values.
“I hope that when people come to visit the James Museum, they experience our shared history and our shared future, and when we can experience it in beauty, it resonates even more,” says Hine.