Cowboys & Indians

James And The Giant Collection

THERE’S A LOVE STORY BEHIND THE JAMES MUSEUM. LOVE OF A COUPLE for each other. Love of skiing in Colorado and of shopping for art as travel mementos. Love of Western and Native American art and artists. And love of giving back to a community.

The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art opened in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, just blocks from the city’s waterfront park, in April 2018. But the beginnings of the collection go back decades, to the college days of founders Tom and Mary James.

“Tom James is the son of Bob James, who founded Raymond James Financial in 1964 in St. Petersburg,” says curator of art Emily Kapes, who began managing the corporate collection in 2005. “Tom grew up here, then went off to Harvard, where he met his now wife, Mary, while she was attending nearby Wellesley. While dating in college they started collecting art, going to local art fairs, or when traveling, picking up pieces that spoke to them.”

Mary had grown up in Michigan and was an accomplished skier. Tom had grown up in Florida and wasn’t a skier. He was a workaholic in the early days of the firm, but she got him to vacation in Colorado, where the couple began buying art to remember their trips. Tom quickly became an avid skier as well.

On one particular vacation, on a day when the weather wasn’t good for skiing, Tom decided to hit some of the Western galleries in town. He’d grown up watching westerns and playing cowboys and Indians, and in the galleries, he discovered an affinity for Western, Native, and wildlife art. “He really connected with it — and with the artists themselves,” Kapes says. “As their art collection continued to grow organically, over time it became more and more focused on Western and wildlife art.”

With success came a desire to give back. When the burgeoning collection outgrew Raymond James Financial’s corporate headquarters — where educational programs and art tours had become well known — plans for

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