History of Gadsden Arts
The Gadsden Arts Center & Museum… what began as a small annual art exhibition to support local artists and improve the quality of life in Gadsden County, has morphed into an American Alliance of Museums Accredited Museum with a state-of-the-art exhibition space, a leader in the Florida art community, with top scoring state grants and innovative educational and exhibition programming.
In 1989, local artist Beth Appleton and her husband David Harbaugh developed Art in Gadsden: a juried exhibition of fine art. Organized by the community and managed by the Quincy Mainstreet Program during its initial years, Art in Gadsden was originally hosted in empty storefronts on the courthouse square.
The Gadsden Arts Center (GAC) was incorporated in 1994, as Art in Gadsden grew, and community feedback indicated the need for more exhibitions of fine art and art education. Originally GAC was housed in a small historic building near downtown Quincy.
The Bell & Bates Building
In 1997, the Bell & Bates Hardware Store, situated on Quincy’s historic square for 85 years, sought a new location. Mark and Patsy Bates then generously donated the c.1912 Bell & Bates building to the Gadsden Arts Center, and the newly hired Executive Director, Zoe Golloway, accepted the gift with an enthusiastic plan. Golloway and community members researched and drove over 1,000 miles to design the types of exhibitions, educational activities, mission, vision, and organizational goals that now guide Gadsden Arts, Inc. Led primarily by private donations, Gadsden Arts, Inc. raised $1.4 million to renovate the hardware store into the state-of-the-art museum facility it is today.
In 2005, founding director Zoe Golloway retired, and Grace Robinson took over as Executive Director, guiding the Gadsden Arts Center to slowly grow programs and exhibitions, such as starting the Artists Guild, beginning annual fine art trips, adding an educator and curator, expanding the Permanent Collection, creating a traveling vernacular art collection, and completing a successful multi-year fundraising campaign to grow the Gadsden Arts Center Endowment.
In July 2016, Gadsden Arts was pleased to share an addition to the organization’s name that reflects its status as a nationally accredited museum: Gadsden Arts Center & Museum. Gadsden Arts is a “Center” – a community gathering place – and a “Museum” that collects, preserves, and shares important works of art, hosts culturally and historically meaningful exhibitions, and promotes tourism.
On March 1, 2016, the Gadsden Arts Center & Museum was awarded the highest honor for a museum in the United States – American Alliance of Museums (AAM) Accreditation. AAM Accreditation means that the Gadsden Arts Center & Museum meets the highest standards and best practices for U.S. Museums. Burt Logan, Chair of the AAM Accreditation Commission, wrote:
“Gadsden Arts meets or exceeds all standards and best practices… through thoughtful planning and sound financial stewardship. We commend the Center’s profound commitment to its community… the Center’s role as a community convener and forum… it embraces this role without compromising its mission, vision, and plan.”
AAM Accreditation is awarded to only 2.8% of all U.S. Museums (1,049 of an estimated 35,000 museums in 2015). Of accredited museums in all disciplines nationwide (history, science, zoos, art, etc.) 430 are art museums, and 34 of those are small art museums like the Gadsden Arts Center & Museum.
Community Connections Expansion/Renovation
In 2018, Gadsden Arts completed its Community Connections Renovation and Expansion Project, which created new spaces that expanded capacity and increased quality in all areas of museum programming. With this expansion, Gadsden Arts launched its innovative ArtZone drop-in studio (pictured), serving over 1,300 participants annually, 56% of whom are new to museums: and creating six exhibition spaces for the presentation of 14 -18 exhibitions each year.
Entering its 26th year of improving quality of life through art in the Big Bend Region, Gadsden Arts is growing in impact each year. The museum brings art experiences to local children and families; exhibits and interprets fine art produced in our region; and hosts major art exhibitions with a depth of historical, cultural, and social content for everyone’s benefit. Gadsden Arts also has a local economic impact exceeding one million dollars and is an anchor for community engagement and revitalization.