Greenville Museum of Art and Its History
The original impetus for the formation of the present Greenville Museum of Art was the first Women’s Club Arts Festival in 1935. Rachel Maxwell Moore contacted the Federal Art Project in Raleigh, which authorized the establishment of a Federal Art Project’s Gallery in Greenville.
The building on the northeast corner of Fifth and Cotanche street was converted into an art gallery.
During these early years of federal sponsorship in the arts, the entire program became an integral part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). In 1943, when Congress made the decision to terminate the WPA, the federal government announced a plan for donating one of the numerous small traveling exhibits to local centers meeting certain requirements. A local group was organized under Mrs. Moore’s guidance and requested a collection for Greenville. This collection of graphics was granted, as a long-term loan, and formed the nucleus of what is now GMA’s collection.
With the closing of the WPA Gallery on Fifth and Cotanche Streets, space for the newly established Community Art Center was furnished by Sheppard Memorial Library with an exhibition area on the second floor and facilities for art classes in the Library’s basement. This photograph shows the entrance to what used to be the museum.
On January 5, 1955, a dinner was held to inaugurate the plan to establish extensive support for the arts in eastern North Carolina. Dr. Robert Lee Humber addressed the group. His enthusiasm stimulated considerable interest and a decision was made to create, on the spot, a new, more widely representative organization with a fresh mandate. Three weeks later, this new organization chose the name East Carolina Art Society. The Society appointed a committee to locate a building to be used as the Greenville Art Center since the Library needed all of its facility for library purposes.
On December 30, 1959, the Society purchased the Flanagan Home, a classical revival home, at 802 South Evans Street, which still functions as the headquarters of the Greenville Museum of Art. The inaugural art exhibit opened in May 1960 and was a gala affair. This landmark exhibit was comprised of Old Master paintings loaned from various New York galleries and Mrs. Moore and Dr. Humber coordinated the effort.
Following Mrs. Moore’s death in 1964, the Directors of the Greenville Art Center were Mrs. Bernard Jackson (Marge), Mrs. O’Brian Edwards and Edith B. Walker.
Mary Anne Pennington was named Executive Director in August 1980 and in the following October the name was changed from the Greenville Art Center to the Greenville Museum of Art.
In 1986 the Museum received accreditation by the American Association of Museums, the highest honor that can be bestowed on any museum.
In 1988, Nelson Britt was named Executive Director, and a couple of years later, the Museum facilities were expanded by a 7,000 foot addition. In 1992 Barbour Strickland became Director, a position he held for 14 years. Charlotte Fitz-Daniels was appointed as Executive Director of the Museum in 2009, and held the position until 2016.
The GMA’s mission is: To Provide and Promote the Visual Arts through the Collection, Exhibitions and Education. With over 17,000 visitors a year and numerous lectures, programs, and tours throughout the year, the Museum is passionate about culturally enriching the lives of all who walk through its doors.
Want to learn more about the Flanagan family who built and owned the house that is now GMA? Watch the video below!