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Florida Lawmakers Propose New African American Art Museum

A new African American art museum may soon be coming to Tampa, Florida. Hillsborough County commissioners unanimously voted in favor of opening an institution dedicated to African American art and artifacts, including jewelry, textiles, and other cultural objects, on Wednesday, May 16.

“This is something that is vitally important,” commissioner Lesley Miller Jr. told Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times. He added, “I’m asking staff to turn over every rock they can to make it happen.” Miller, the county’s only black commissioner, was a friend of Israel “Ike” Tribble, a pioneering educator and civic leader, who founded the now-defunct African American Museum of Art in Tampa in 1991. The institution was the home of the Barnett-Aden African American Art Collection, which was valued at about $7 million, but was shuttered after only six years because of financial troubles.

The county is also currently home to the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum in St. Petersburg, which mostly exhibits artworks. For Miller, an important role of the proposed museum would be to display cultural heritage objects in addition to art. The institution is mostly supported through grants and donations. 

The next step in realizing the new museum will be identifying an appropriate site for it. According to Miller, the commissioners will seek funding from the private sector, and they hope to partner with local philanthropists.

In addition to the museum vote, the commissioners also approved the creation of a Black Heritage and Cultural Council, which will be dedicated to preserving black history.