The Pensacola Museum of Art has been a showcase of the coastal city for more than 60 years. Inside its storied structure, the museum houses works that date all the way back to 1850 in a permanent collection that’s open for audiences in northwest Florida and beyond. Museum Director Nicholas Croghan chats about the significance of the Pensacola landmark, its current exhibits, and what can be expected later this year.
Q: What sets the Pensacola Museum of Art (PMA) apart from other museums?
A: The Pensacola Museum of Art is unique in that it is part of a much larger museum family. With our unified ticket, visitors to the PMA get access to all of the museums downtown that is part of the UWF Historic Trust. So for the price of a ten-dollar ticket, which is valid for seven days, a guest can visit the art museum, as well as the Pensacola Museum of History, Children’s Museum, Museum of Commerce, Museum of Industry, and the Historic Village. This site-wide experience helps to put the contemporary art that we have on display into a much richer cultural context.
Q: It’s unique that a city the size of Pensacola has a Museum of Art. Can you speak to the significance of that and what it means to the city?
A: The PMA has been a place of inspiration for all ages in this region for over 60 years. We have brought in influential art and artists that much larger cities strive to attract to their museums. We work to not only provide a place to view contemporary art, but also a place where local artists can exhibit their work. As part of UWF, educating and training students is a central part of the Museum’s mission and we use our space as a real-world pedagogical lab for those interested in pursuing a career in the arts. For K-12 students in Escambia County, exhibiting work in our Annual Youth Focus Exhibition is usually their first foray into the world of fine art and museums in general. It’s always amazing to hear from folks who say they remember exhibiting their work here as a student 30 or 40 years ago.
Q: What are some of the current exhibits visitors can check out?
A: We have a striking and poignant exhibition currently on view through March that is titled Visionary Aponte: Art and Black Freedom. This show takes as its point of departure an extraordinary—and now lost—historical artifact: a so-called “book of paintings.” Its creator was José Antonio Aponte, a free black carpenter, artist, and former soldier who was also the leader of an ambitious antislavery conspiracy in Cuba in 1812. During his trial, Aponte was forced to provide testimony describing each of the pictures in his book. They portrayed a wide array of subject matter, from Biblical scenes to landscapes to episodes in the history of Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Using those descriptions, more than a dozen contemporary artists have reimagined Aponte’s book for our present, inviting us to think about the role of art and history in making social change.
Q: What are some of the upcoming exhibits and events?
A: We have an exciting sitewide event coming up in March. This is a “Community Day” for the Historic Trust and all our museums will be free and open to the public. On that day we will also have live mural painting taking place on the Cubes in Museum Plaza. Beginning on June 10, America’s Everglades: Photographs by Clyde Butcher will be on view at the museum. In this exhibition, the beauty of the Everglades is celebrated in monumentally scaled photographs. The brilliant clarity and atmospheric depth set his photographs apart as exceptional works of art, earning him recognition as one of the foremost landscape photographers in America today. Butcher reveals the Everglades’ ecosystems in extraordinary detail and makes an unquestionable case for why we should care about the future of these deep cypress strands, estuaries, coastal waters, and rare species.