By Erika Webb
Knowledge is power; art imitates life; without knowing history we are doomed to repeat it.
These familiar phrases formed the gist of Museum of Art-DeLand CEO George Bolge's message to the community Sept. 4.
At a news conference, Mr. Bolge said the name change, from Museum of Florida Art to Museum of Art-DeLand was designed to embrace more national and international artists and collections as well as expand ways of educating and attracting visitors to the public museum.
Soon, the museum will occupy its first satellite location -- in downtown DeLand.
The DeLand City Commission voted unanimously Sept. 3 to terminate its lease with The Florida Museum for Women Artists at the historic Fish Building at 100 N. Woodland Blvd. and enter into a lease agreement with the unaffiliated Museum of Art which operates six blocks north at 600 N. Woodland Blvd.
The Florida Museum for Women Artists was established in downtown DeLand in 2008. Using ECHO grant funds, the city renovated the second floor of the building, creating 7,000 square feet of gallery space.
The museum and the city entered into a lease agreement, the terms of which allowed the museum to operate rent free for the first year, pay $2,400 plus utilities the second year, followed by higher payments in subsequent years.
In 2011, the museum leased most of the first floor separately for $2,500 a month. Clever ideas were in abundance.
There were plans for an art business incubator, café, gift shop, workshop and meeting area in the two downstairs suites.
Funds, however, were not abundant.
Years of financial struggle forced the FMWA board to make the decision to close its doors.
Earlier this year an anonymous donor helped the museum with a gift of $25,000 for back rent and utilities bills, but sustainability eluded it.
"While the museum has successfully provided exceptional exhibits and programming for its members and the community at large, the executive board determined it had become increasingly difficult to find sustainable funding to meet fiscal needs and will close the museum doors Sunday, Sept. 29," a news release of the women artists museum stated.
With the rent payments to the city current, no outstanding debts or transferrable assets, the FMWA will close unencumbered.
Museum of Art-DeLand Marketing Director Lisa Habermehl said the museum's broadening scope and satellite location will expand efforts to be inclusive.
"The diversity that we've always had with regard to culture, gender and genre is very broad," Ms. Habermehl said. "The purpose of changing the name from Florida Museum of Art to Museum of Art is to broaden our audience and ultimately broaden our base of support."
The first major exhibition of 2014 will feature the works of a female artist, she added.
Teri Peaden, former co-owner of the popular and eclectic NEST, as well as a driving force behind DeLand's miniature answer to SoHo -- Artisan Alley -- will manage the satellite museum store.
Mr. Bolge, who has had numerous leadership positions in the arts including serving as the executive director for the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art and for the Boca Raton Museum of Art, said starting with local artists and collections before branching out is a building block for success.
"Every good museum that's started, starts with artists who are in reach," Mr. Bolge said.
The first responsibility of a small museum is to see what local artists do, to encourage and promote them, he explained, before expanding geographically and culturally.
"(We) can't exist unilaterally in a vacuum," Mr. Bolge said. "Art tenders a great stream of tradition."
In order to contribute to the community, and ultimately to society, a museum must collect and preserve not just eye pleasing objects but those compelling pieces that promote new ideas and spark conversations. It should be an "end destination situation" to attract visitors from outside the area as well, he said.
"Like The Dali Museum," said Volusia County Cultural Coordinator Mike Fincher.
Taking into consideration several universities within 20 minutes of the DeLand museum, Mr. Bolge said it must subjugate what the universities do experimentally with art, as well as introduce visitors to international, contemporary and historic ideas.
"Everything we do is with an educational purpose, to make every citizen a world citizen," he explained. "We need to prepare kids not only to be tolerant of other cultures but to understand how they have impacted history."
Mr. Bolge's hope is the satellite museum downtown will feature popular art, local and regional artists. He sees it as an outreach to passersby and families. He hopes it will attract people to the downtown area and engage them in new ideas.
"We will use the satellite as a strong supporter of what we do here," he said.
Exhibitions like The Confluence of Cultures: The Hispanic Latino Experience in Florida featuring "Forging an Identity Contemporary Latin American Art" exemplify the museum's use of art as a platform to bring in other ideas, such as the issue of immigration, said curator of education Pam Coffman.
Partnering with Volusia County Schools to share programs like "Forging an Identity," which can be tied to writing and Common Core Standards trains teachers and students together, Ms. Coffman said.
"It's not a one shot deal. There's a ripple effect and we're going to throw that pebble in the pond," she added.
"We live by the largesse of the people who think it's important for us to live," Mr. Bolge said. "We will only do well if people believe in what we do."
The building lease for the second floor satellite museum space is extended through Sept. 30, 2018, and the annual rent follows the same pattern established with the Museum of Women Artists by escalating $1,200 each year, according to the city.
"There are two leases, one for the upstairs, one for the downstairs," assistant city manager Dale Arrington said. "The new museum will pick up right where the old one left off for the upstairs gallery space."
The amount paid by the museum for 2013-14 is scheduled to be $6,000, followed by $7,200 in 2014-15 and $8,400 in 2015-16.
The downstairs lease is a continuation of the current lease rate, which is at market rate -- $32,000 a year for five years, according to the agenda item.
The museum may renew the lease for five successive terms of five years each at the end of the initial term.
Continuing to use the space fulfills the mission of ECHO (environmental, cultural, heritage or outdoor recreation facilities for public use).
"We're delighted another museum is going to be in there, otherwise we'd have to pay back those ECHO grants," Ms. Arrington said. "It's in everyone's best interest."