TAMPA — Todd Smith, who had led the Tampa Museum of Art since 2008, has been appointed head of the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach, Calif. His last day in Tampa will be July 3.
The museum’s board of trustees announced Smith’s resignation in a written statement Wednesday.
“The Orange County museum is at a really important point in its growth,” Smith said. “It’s looking to build a new building. I just came off building a new building and still have that in my bones.”
Smith said Orange County Museum officials approached him because of his work in Tampa. He also said Orange County’s focus on contemporary art meshes with his own preferences.
Orange County museum officials said Smith will start work there Aug. 4.
Tampa Museum board chairwoman Debra Williams McDaniel called Smith’s departure “bittersweet.”
“During his tenure, he has built a very strong institution that has become known for its outstanding program of exhibitions, accessibility for all and fiscal health,” McDaniel said. “Todd has taken us to new heights as a regional art museum, and we are proud of the gains we made together due to his immeasurable talent, hard work and dedication.”
Smith came to Tampa from the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, S.C. He oversaw the construction of the Tampa museum’s new home on the northern edge of Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
In addition to being the museum’s executive director, Smith also curated its modern and contemporary art collections. He brought 45 special exhibitions to the small museum known mostly for its collection of Greek pottery.
Under Smith’s leadership, the museum’s paid attendance and donor contributions grew from less than $500,000 in grants, donations and memberships in 2008 to just under $1.5 million in 2012, according to the museum’s most recent federal non-profit tax filings.
Contributions peaked in 2010, the year the museum opened in its new home, at $2.1 million.
Smith focused much of his energy on bringing touring exhibitions to Tampa rather than building the 33-year-old museum’s collection.
Smith said he took that approach as a way to bring major art pieces to Tampa at a time when the museum lacks the millions of dollars needed to compete for art work.
“It’s a concern for a lot of younger art museums,” Smith said.
The Tampa Museum of Art was founded in 1979. “Most of the major collections were already in museums by that point,” Smith said.
The traveling exhibitions, combined with pay-what-you-will Friday hours, have helped build the museum’s relationship with the residents of the Tampa area, Smith said.
“I’ve seen a marked change in how people talk about the museum,” Smith said.