The Pensacola Museum of Art is about to become a part of the University of West Florida. The transition was announced today (Wednesday) and will become effective on July first. WUWF’s Bob Barrett spoke to Dr. Brendan Kelly, Vice President of University Advancement and President of the UWF Foundation about what this means for the university and the future of the museum.
Dr. Brendan Kelly: It’s an important move forward for the University of West Florida, especially enhancing our presence downtown and the types of contributions we make ot nurturing the cultural assets of this community and it’s a really big move for the Pensacola Museum of Art to become more successful and sustainable as we move forward.
Bob Barrett: What does this mean for the experience of someone walking into the museum, will it be any different a year from now?
BK: Well I think one of the things that you’re going to see is a stronger museum. The Pensacola Museum of Art has hosted some notable exhibitions over the years. And becoming part of a public university in the state of Florida provides that museum an infrastructure and a girth that will allow it to have those notable exhibitions more frequently, to become a stronger organization that isn’t focused as much on survival as it is on excellence. It is an accredited museum from the American Federation of Museums and we intend to continue to support that mission and that accreditation.
BB: Is this a transfer or an actual sale?
BK: It’s not a sale, it’s a gift. So all the assets of the Pensacola Museum of Art are gifted over to the UWF Foundation, Incorporated. And from the foundation those will be distributed to various places in the university so that it becomes a unit within the University of West Florida. It is a wonderful complement to the other 28 properties and eight-and-a-half acres that we own in downtown Pensacola. The UWF Historic Trust has done a great job of celebrating the history of Pensacola and preserving some of the most important structures in that downtown area. This is an important expansion of that mission, from that perspective.
BB: The board of trustees of the museum- will they be staying on as a board of that museum?
BK: Absolutely. You know, that board of trustees has worked very, very hard over the years to support and sustain that museum and to have a powerful group of advocates continue to work on behalf of the mission of the PMA is really important to us as a university.
BB: Expand a little bit on what the museum might be able to get as an exhibition now that they wouldn’t have been able to, say, six months ago.
BK: Well, I wouldn’t say it’s an opportunity to get something they couldn’t have beforehand. For an independent museum to go out and get a notable exhibition there is a lot of money that has to be put up upfront. And then that money is recovered through the sale of tickets to the exhibition. As an independent museum there is not a lot of money to be put upfront but as part of the university there is a larger infrastructure in place to support putting those sorts of upfront costs in place so that we can have those exhibitions and we’re confident about the cost recovery because the question is not “will we survive if the costs are recovered the way they need to be or the profit margin isn’t there?”
BB: And this does really add to the footprint of the university in the downtown area?
BK: Oh, it does! The Pensacola Museum of Art is one of the most notable buildings in the downtown area. It is the former jail. It is one of only art museums in the United States that still has cells! And you get to come and experience that as part of the museum.
We own eight and a half acres in downtown Pensacola and the addition of the Museum of Art really expands that footprint from T.T. Wentworth and just jumps the corner over to the PMA. I think that’s a great opportunity for UWF to play the very unique role that it plays in downtown Pensacola. If I go to Ann Arbor, Michigan the university exists throughout the downtown area but the University of West Florida is located a few miles north of downtown. UWF gets to do something that few other organizations are equipped to do and that is to steward and nurture the cultural assets of downtown Pensacola in a way that maintains them as world class assets.
BB: Will we be seeing university activities or events happening at that museum?
BK: Oh, absolutely. Not just university events but university supported events that support our education mission. You know, one of the unique opportunities that a fine art museum does is bring opportunities for the Department of Art. There are students who are very interested in having curatorial experience in a fine arts museum which haven’t been as accessible in the past even though there’s been a strong partnership with PMA and the university, this makes it a pure pipeline. Arts administration, interests of students, and the ability to go and study exhibitions that are in a museum space are all enormous expansion opportunities for the art education piece for UWF.
The Pensacola Museum of Art officially becomes part of UWF on July first.