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The James Museum announces interim director

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The Tom and Mary James Museum of Western and Wildlife art has selected an interim director as it ramps up toward its scheduled opening in early 2018.

Bernice Chu started the job on Monday and will report directly to Tom James who along with his wife, Mary James, will make hundreds of works of art from their private collection available for viewing in a new 84,000-square-foot museum next year.

Chu’s long résumé includes positions with The New York Botanical Garden, The Art Institute of Chicago and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Chu joins The James Museum from the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, where she served as the director of facilities and operations for the past two years.

Chu, an alumna of the City College of New York, also has extensive experience in design and construction and even helmed her own firm providing that expertise to companies in New York.

That experience is what caught Tom James’ eye. He said Chu will be instrumental in planning for the museum’s opening and will be responsible for staffing and systems development over the coming months.

With Chu and art collection curator Emily Kapes in place, The James Museum is expected round out its inaugural staff with more top-level hiring announcements in the coming weeks, including a director of education and a director of facilities.

Tom and Mary James began collecting art while they were dating in the 1960s, and while they first concentrated on modern art, the more time they spent out west, the more the couple became familiar with and enamored of modern Western art.

The couple now have about 1,800 pieces of Western art.

In addition to the museum proper, the downtown development will include 35,000 square feet of leasable space split between the east and west sides of the museum.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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