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Pinellas Community Foundation joins drive for a new Woodson Museum

Bill DeYoung

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Rendering of the lobby area of the proposed Woodson African American Museum of Florida. Renderings by Huff + Gooden and WJ Architects.

The long-awaited construction of a new, state-of-the-art museum to celebrate and study St. Petersburg’s Black history and culture came one step closer to reality this week, as the Pinellas Community Foundation has joined the fundraising effort.

Terri Lipsey Scott, director of the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, called the Foundation’s announcement “a heavy lift. It means everything to the Woodson, that the Foundation finds itself wanting to be a leader in this space and are lending their support and assistance to helping us navigate reaching our goal.”

The goal for the 30,000-square foot facility is $27 million. In 2019, the City donated 5.5 acres in Commerce Park, in the 22nd Street South Deuces area, for the new museum.

That left Scott, who’s never been thrilled with the museum’s current location, in a 4,000-square-foot Jordan Park building dating from the 1930s, unhappy with the prospect of raising the funds necessary to build the new facility.

Even after the City kicked in the first $1 million.

With the Pinellas Community Foundation joining her team, a big weight, she says, has been lifted from her shoulders.

“Especially with me having absolutely no experience in fundraising, it’s extremely meaningful from the perspective of being able to direct those are wanting to help and lend their support in this space,” Scott said. “To know that there’s a credible financial institution in play, with a level of trust in our community, and knowing that we will achieve our goals.”

In a statement, Pinellas Community Foundation CEO Duggan Cooley said the old space was simply not big or bold enough. “A purpose-built museum for African American history and culture raises the prominence of The Woodson, and all that means to our community,” he said.

The new museum, which has been designed by Huff + Gooden and WJ Architects, will dwarf its predecessor in size, content and prestige. It will also have a new name, The Woodson African American Museum of Florida.

As far as a timeline, Scott said “I would like to think we can do it in six months, to be quite honest.”

It’s up to those who want to contribute, she suggested.

“When we consider what we know to be the case every day, with the lack of diversity, equity and inclusion, and those who love suggesting that that’s a part of their mantra to date, when they’re primarily just words … we’re looking for individuals to now speak their truth on a check. Put your money where your mouth is.

“What are we doing to suggest we’re sincere about our efforts to not only support but respect the African American culture, and its history?”

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