TAMPA - James Ferman Jr. has stepped down as chairman of the capital campaign for the new Tampa Museum of Art, just as fundraisers approach the halfway point of a $30-million goal.
Ferman wrote in his resignation letter that he could no longer give the fundraising drive the "undiluted and focused attention it deserves." The death in April of Ferman's father, who was chairman of Ferman Motor Car Co., has put more demands on his family car business, Ferman wrote.
"I think we are at the point where we can hand off to someone else," Ferman said in an interview Wednesday. "My life was getting a little crowded."
He described his resignation as "more of a natural progression" to the next phase of the campaign.
But the change was not planned. At the outset of the fundraising campaign, museum officials touted Ferman's appointment as campaign chairman as a sign of strong local support. But they have kept news of Ferman's resignation on April 24 quiet.
Museum officials had planned a news conference this summer to announce they have reached the midway point in the capital drive. They expected the positive news coverage would generate "a significant and positive impact" on fundraising - and spur more donors to give, museum officials wrote in a report to Mayor Pam Iorio.
Instead, museum officials will have to announce a new campaign chairman. They hope to do so at the same news conference, museum director Emily Kass said. The museum has identified several prospects, but hadn't settled on a replacement Wednesday. "We are certainly not being left rudderless," said Kass, citing the campaign's two vice chairmen and volunteers.
As of late April, the campaign had commitments from 84 donors to give $14.7-million. They also hoped to secure a $2.5-million grant from the Legislature.
That leaves another $15-million to $17-million to raise before work can begin on the new museum.
City taxpayers will spent about $29.8-million from sales taxes to pay for construction of the $52-million museum. The remaining $22-million must come from private donors.
Fundraisers also have to raise $2.5-million to buy furniture and fixtures, and between $3-million and $5-million for moving costs. That doesn't count the $20-million endowment museum officials hope to raise to pay for operating costs.
Iorio plans to meet with museum officials next week to discuss the work left to be done.
"We are working on solutions and a course of action that makes sense," Iorio said.
She praised the progress made since the campaign began last year. "I think they have done an excellent job of raising $14-million in an incredibly short amount of time," Iorio said.
Kass said they have now reached $15-million, and matched the progress made by other, similar fundraising drives. "To raise this amount of money, in this (economic) environment, is impressive and really speaks well to the commitments to this projects - and to Jim Ferman," Kass said.