Mary Avery and Dewey Mitchell honor late brother with $1M gift to LRMA


family photo of the donors

Photo: From left to right Phil Allman, Mary Mitchell Avery, Becky Mitchell, Dewey Mitchell, Shirley Scoggins, and Vicki McMahan all attend the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art opening reception for Material Mastery: Florida CraftArt Permanent Collection of Fine Craft on June 9, 2023. The exhibit was sponsored by Mary Mitchell Avery.

A transformative gift steeped in family tradition and deep Pasco County roots will usher the acclaimed Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art at St. Petersburg College (SPC) into a new era of long-term financial stability and high-tech expansion.

LRMA exterior photo with pond in the foreground

A $1 million donation from Mary Mitchell Avery and brother Dewey Mitchell honors the legacy of their late brother James W. Mitchell Jr., a Tampa gallery owner who, along with the siblings’ late mother Dorothy Mitchell, provided invaluable support for innovative artistry in the region and beyond.

“The James W. Mitchell Jr. Memorial is in honor of our dear brother Jim, whose love of the arts was a lifelong passion,” Avery and Mitchell said in a joint statement. “This gift comes with the hope that it will inspire both artists and art enthusiasts. We also hope it will help in sustaining the mission of Leepa-Rattner for many years to come. We love you, Jim, and are so humbly honored to make this gift in your name.”

This marks only the second gift of $1 million or more in the museum’s 22-year history, and its impact will be profound, according to Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art (LRMA) Executive Director Christine Renc-Carter.

“We’ve gone through a huge transition in the last several years, and this comes at a critical time for us,” she said. “It will help us with the reaccreditation process with the American Alliance of Museums — a distinction held by fewer than 6% of U.S. museums. And it will strengthen us greatly as we chart a new, post-COVID course as a college department since 2021. This gift marks one of our first efforts in joining together with the SPC Foundation to secure the future of the museum. It truly sets the tone for what is to come.”