As 2012 wraps up, the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, 600 E. Klosterman Rd., is celebrating its 10th year in Tarpon Springs.
Namesake Abraham Rattner was a figurative expressionist with a gift of color. He became a leading colorist before his passing 1978.
Rattner's second wife, Esther Gentle, was also an artist. She was a sculptor and printmaker. Gentle's son, Allen Leepa, followed in her footsteps as an abstract expressionist.
About 10 years after Rattner passed, Gentle and Leepa moved to the area. According to Lynn Pierson, manager of the museum store, Leepa "fell in love" with Tarpon Springs. His mother resided in Palm Harbor at the time.
Over time, Leepa and Gentle accumulated thousands of works by Rattner and other artists. They searched for an ideal location to have them showcased.
Leepa, like Rattner, had a great interest in bridging the gap between education and the arts.
"They really wanted to have that kind of focus," Pierson said.
One day during the '90s, Isabelle Leepa, Allen's wife, called the St. Petersburg College Tarpon Springs campus and asked, "Are you interested in a gift?"
Pierson said that the college accepted, and within a few weeks, a deal was on the table. There was a grant in the works. It would enable the campus to build a library, and they thought that expanding it into a small gallery would accompany the 250 works that the Leepas had offered.
To make a long story short, the grant fell through. But the school kept a healthy relationship with the Leepas.
Less than five years later, Leepa contacted the Tarpon Springs campus and offered yet another gift. This time it would be more than anyone ever expected.
"He said 'I want to give you the whole shebang,' " remembered Pierson.
The whole "shebang" included 5,000 pieces of work, including some from Abraham Rattner and Pablo Picasso, among many others.
After divesting properties that belonged to Rattner, the Leepas were able to help fund the building of the museum.
Pierson was around for all of it. She started out as one of the original museum docents and is currently the manager of Isabelle's Museum Store.
Although Pierson originally got involved to spark her own creative expression, she says that she wouldn't trade her experiences at the museum for the world.
"To me, the museum is a real life engagement about who we are and where we are going," said Pierson. "I can't imagine not having that."
Much of the staff at the museum has been around since the early 2000s, including the current Acting Director, Ann Larsen.
Larsen said of the museum's 10-year-anniversary: "It's just been a joy to see much accomplished in a relatively short amount of time."
Neighboring towns offer museums like the Dali in St. Petersburg and the Tampa Museum of Art across the bay. But the staff at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art believe that Tarpon Springs houses a special quality because of the museum's presence.
"It is so incredible to have this caliber of museum right here in Tarpon," said Larsen.
To continue the 10-year celebration, the museum is hosting a number of upcoming events:
Saturday, Oct. 13: Artists' Market at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art at 10 a.m.
Saturday, Oct. 20: Stone Crab Fest at the Tarpon Springs Yacht Club at 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 31: Children's Art and Story Hour at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art at 3 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 8: French Connections Gallery Talk at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art at 7 p.m.