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Museum Of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg Appoints Jerry N. Smith as Hazel and William Hough Chief Curator

Monday, August 24, 2015  
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Museum Of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg Appoints Jerry N. Smith as Hazel and William Hough Chief Curator, Has Impressive Record of Achievement


MEDIA CONTACT: David Connelly, or 727.896.2667, ext. 224



     St. Petersburg, Fla.--Dr. Jerry N. Smith brings extensive curatorial, scholarly, and administrative background to his new role as the Hazel and William Hough Chief Curator at the Museum of Fine Arts. He begins his new position on Monday, October 19. He is currently Curator of American and European Art to 1950 and Art of the American West at the Phoenix Art Museum. The MFA conducted a national search for a new chief curator. Dr. Smith’s interests complement those of Katherine Pill, the MFA’s Assistant Curator of Art after 1950.


     “Jerry has held leadership positions at the Phoenix Art Museum for more than a decade,” said MFA Director Kent Lydecker. “He has been responsible for all aspects of display, interpretation, and acquisition of works by artists ranging from Leonardo da Vinci to Paul Cézanne to Andy Warhol. He has also curated innovative exhibitions of modern and contemporary art of the American West. Jerry’s enthusiasm for the MFA—our collection, exhibitions, programs, and our future—is contagious. We all greatly look forward to working with him.”


     “I am very excited to have Jerry Smith join the Museum of Fine Arts as the Hazel and William Hough Chief Curator,” said Mark T. Mahaffey, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. “Jerry brings vast knowledge and experience to our exceptional museum. His willingness to collaborate with our staff in bringing exciting exhibitions to our community and in adding significant works to our collection gives me great confidence in the future of the MFA.”


     Dr. Smith’s responsibilities and accomplishments in Phoenix mesh ideally with the MFA’s comprehensive collection. During his tenure, he curated and supervised nearly 40 exhibitions that spanned the art of the Renaissance to American modernism through contemporary art of the American West. He began as Associate Curator in 2005 and was appointed to his current position in 2009.


     His diverse exhibitions included Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester and The Power of Observation, Cézanne and American Modernism, Georgia O’Keeffe: Ingénue to Icon, and Andy Warhol: Portraits. He also focused on The Migrant Series of Colorado-based artist Don Coen, whose large-scale paintings capture the dignity of these farmers; the work of Ernest Blumenschein, co-founder of the Taos Society of Artists; retablos (small devotional paintings of Mexico and the Southwest); and even the engraved guns of master craftsman Ray Wielgus.


     In addition, he was instrumental in selecting and recommending art for the collection, which numbers more than 18,000 works. He has written a number of catalogues, most recently Don Coen: The Migrant Series. Cézanne and American Modernism, for which he wrote an essay on the artist and the American West, was published by Yale University Press. The Phoenix Art Museum, which opened in 1959, has 285,000 square feet and serves one of the country’s largest metropolitan areas.


     Dr. Smith holds his BA magna cum laude and his MA from Arizona State University and his PhD from the University of Kansas, all in art history. His advisor at Kansas was Dr. Charles Eldredge, the noted scholar of American art. His dissertation examined the automobile in American art from 1900-1950.


     “I will work with everyone at the MFA to help create a vibrant exhibition schedule for the coming years,” Dr. Smith said. “I’ve learned that exhibitions are not cookie-cutter experiences that perfectly translate from one museum to another or one part of the country to the next. To be successful, exhibitions must speak to the community. One of my initial goals is to get to know the collectors and art enthusiasts in St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay area and to learn about the community’s various interests.


     “Just so people know up front, I tend to get excited when I talk about art and don’t try to hide my enthusiasm,” he added. “I believe strongly that if I can’t get excited about art, how can I engage others? If I don’t feel emotionally charged by an exhibition, why should I believe visitors will be interested? I am thrilled about this opportunity to expand audiences for art at the MFA.”




     The MFA at 255 Beach Drive N.E. has a world-class collection, with works by Monet, Gauguin, Renoir, Morisot, Cézanne, Rodin, O’Keeffe, and many other great artists. Also displayed are ancient Greek and Roman, Egyptian, Asian, African, pre-Columbian, and Native American art. The photography collection is one of the largest and finest in the Southeast.


     Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, until 8 p.m. on Thursday, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is only $5 after 5 p.m. on Thursday. Regular admission is $17 for adults, $15 for those 65 and older, and $10 for students seven and older, including college students with current I.D. Children under seven and Museum members are admitted free. Groups of 10 or more adults pay only $12 per person and children $4 each with prior reservations. The MFA Café is open from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. For more information, please call 727.896.2667 or visit

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