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Cover Story

The art of the deal 

Devotees of the Maitland Art Center fear a recent merger threatens its future

Photo: Rob Bartlett, License: N/A

Rob Bartlett

Hero Worship: Longtime colleagues (l-r) Bill Orr and Maury Hurt, pictured in the outdoor chapel at the Maitland Art Center, want to preserve the work of its founder, Jules André Smith

Photo: Rob Bartlett, License: N/A

Rob Bartlett

“Only a legal proceeding before a judge can change the status of the Maitland Art Center from being a public trust,” he says, “not just because some lawyers say so.”


Two years ago, says Maitland Mayor Doug Kinson, the Maitland Art Center was short on money to maintain its grounds. The center had fallen into disrepair due to the effects of time and a trio of hurricanes that swept through the area in 2004. The city was in an aggressive development mode at the time, but it was also low on funds.

Because the city subsidizes both the Maitland Art Center and the Maitland Historical Society, and “budgets were tight,” says Kinson, it made sense to think about consolidating the organizations.

“We were looking at every avenue to create efficiencies in government,” he says. “That’s how the discussion initially came about.”

According to financial documents filed with the IRS, the Maitland Historical Society had $1,129,451 in the bank at the end of fiscal year 2008 – nearly double the $630,278 it started with that year. The most recent financial documents available for the Maitland Art Association are from fiscal year 2007, and the organization ended the year with $876,803, down slightly from $887,655 at the end of 2006.

Combining the asset base of the two organizations – estimated to be approximately $3 million in September 2010 by the Maitland Art and History Association’s executive board – as well as staff and membership made both fiscal and organizational sense.

“It’s a perfect union,” Kinson says. “[So] this spring we made a fast and hard decision to merge and got it done.”

In early 2010, several public meetings were held at which members of both boards and the public could hear what the proposed benefits of the merger would be. According to Andrea Bailey Cox, former executive director of the Maitland Historical Society who was appointed the director and CEO of the Maitland Art and History Association in May, the idea was met with enthusiasm by everyone – save for a “small, vocal group who were concerned that the art center would no longer be taken seriously.”

In December 2007, the Maitland Historical Society received a grant of $1 million from the Morgan Group, the company that built the Village at Lake Lily, a multiuse development at the corner of U.S. Highway 17/92 and Lake Avenue. The money was earmarked to help the society construct a new museum to enhance its current campus. Although it will likely be eight months before the vision for the museum can be announced, Bailey Cox says, it’s possible that it would be built on a parcel of land on Lake Lily between the Maitland Art Center and the Waterhouse Residence Museum run by the Maitland Historical Society. If the museum were to be built at that location, it would connect the two organizations physically; if it housed a wing dedicated to Smith’s artwork, they’d be connected in mission and vision as well.

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