TAMPA — Gladys Shafran Kashdin, a renowned local artist and an early women’s studies scholar at the University of South Florida, has died. She was 92.
Kashdin was also a philanthropist and member of the museum board that brought the Museum of Science & Industry to its current home on Fowler Avenue across from USF.
“She was active and interested in the whole community,” said former city council member and county commissioner Jan Platt, a longtime friend. “Being an artist, it seemed she was the least likely to be so active in the things she was involved in.”
Kashdin died Thursday in a local care center. She lived for 40 years in Temple Terrace.
She was born in Pittsburgh, and moved to New York with her parents in her teens. She was married to Manville Kashdin, who retired from the Navy after World War II. He died in 1976.
A painter, photographer and collagist, Kashdin’s artistic repertoire included nearly 70 one-woman shows, 55 group exhibitions and the donation of American abstract expressionist research to the Smithsonian Institution.
One of her paintings, “Hillsborough River,” hangs in the Tampa City Hall annex. Another, “Riptide,” is on display in the city’s water department.
Her artistic series, which have been exhibited at numerous museums, include “The Everglades,” “Processes of Time,” and “Gaia’s Daughters.”
Kashdin began formal art studies in 1939, when she attended the Art Students League in New York City. She studied art at the University of Miami, and earned a doctorate in humanities from Florida State University in 1965. After joining the USF faculty, she was active in women’s groups and university politics, and was a member of the original Status of Women Committee.
“She was very thoughtful, very passionate about the environment, just a very driven, strong individual,” said Robin Nigh, Tampa’s public art manager.
Wit Ostrenko, president of MOSI, recounted a critical moment in the history of the museum in the 1970s. Kashdin, a member of the Hillsborough County Museum Advisory Board, had been hosting a dinner party for a USF dean when she received a frantic telephone call summoning her to fulfill a quorum for a crucial vote on the move to the USF property.
“She told her guests what she had to do, hopped in her car, went to the meeting, made the motion to have it at USF, and they voted to have it at the current location. Then she ran back to her dinner,” Ostrenko said. “If they hadn’t taken that vote, who knows what would have happened?”
The Gladys Shafran Kashdin Event Center at MOSI was named in her honor.
“She understood that art and science are just two different mechanisms of describing the universe around us,” Ostrenko said.
In 1996, she presented a 50-year retrospective at the Tampa Museum of Art that was described as demonstrating the development of her style from realistic figures to her increasing interest in nature, abstraction and conceptual form.
“I have created myself through my art,” she told the Tampa Tribune in an interview that year. “The work I have done and the people I have touched in life is my immortality.”