The Maitland Art Association and the Maitland Historical Society in Maitland, Florida existed next door to each other for over 30 years – but in 2009, after years of hushed conversations, they finally decided to talk publicly about a merger of the two well-loved cultural institutions.
Community members and elected officials often mentioned that maybe the two institutions should work more closely together since their missions and programs were similar, but as we all know, partnerships are hard. The two organizations had partnered on several events over the years, but it was not until the economic recession began and the Executive Director of the Art Center retired after 27 years, that the idea of partnering really started to blossom.
The conversation started loosely – about what would happen if the two organizations shared a copier or an accountant – and soon grew into discussions of a true strategic alliance. The CEO of the local arts council stepped in and led a task force. The two boards, with local governmental encouragement, decided to look at the changes happening as an opportunity to be pro-active and get ahead of the curve, so that the two missions of each respective institution would better weather any storm in the future from leadership transition to other recessions.
A casual conversation gets serious
Then, it took a nearly perfect combination of leadership from boards, staff, and the local arts council, United Arts of Central Florida, to make the vision a reality. Leaders from both sides were committed to the two missions, open communication, and the hard negotiating work to get it completed. At one point, I remember we had five lawyers in a room of ten people working on the merger agreement. Needless to say, we had long meetings looking at everything from programming to finance to public relations.
A year later, the two organizations decided a merger was the best decision to better carry out the mission of both organizations through increased marketing capability, enhanced fund development prospects, interdisciplinary programming opportunities, and cost efficiencies. One of the aspects to this merger that was unique was that it was not forced by the economic downturn. Both organizations had healthy balance sheets. The economic downturn was more of a catalyst to thinking differently about our futures. Finally, we reached our official merger date on May 13, 2010 and became the Art & History Museums-Maitland.
From transition to rebirth
Transition has been our namesake for the past two years. A close cousin to transition is rebirth, which is exactly what this merger created for both organizations’ missions. The facilities, programming, and brand have new life and new energy. Concerned members were worried that the missions of both organizations would be diluted with the merger, but the opposite occurred.
Success through a new brand
A new permanent exhibition honors the founder of the artists’ colony out of which the art center was first established. A re-invigorated artist studio program provides an annual competition for local artist studios on campus and in 2013, we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the first artist to work on campus by starting an Artist-in-Residence program in the founder’s original home. The history of the institution’s campus drives the current artistic programming.
For the historical museums, the merger has meant greater exposure and relevance to the community. The four small historical museums are now a cultural destination. In addition, the organization has begun to explore rich, interdisciplinary programming that would not have been possible before the merger.
In the past two years, the merged entity of the Art & History Museums-Maitland has seen dramatic increases in the quality of its programs; has exceeded previous fundraising records by double-digit percentages; and has created greater awareness and professionalism through a new brand. It has not been easy to merge to well-loved cultural institutions, but it has been a journey worth taking.
About the Art & History Museums – Maitland
The Art & History Museums-Maitland (A&H) is home to knowledge, inspiration, and creativity. Comprised of five unique museums, including the Maitland Art Center, Waterhouse Residence Museum, Carpentry Shop Museum, Telephone Museum, and Maitland Historical Museum, the A&H is a premier cultural destination. Through A&H’s diverse collections, unparalleled architectural environments, and interactive programming, the A&H makes a significant impact on Central Florida’s cultural life. From professional artists working in their studios to hands-on 19th century woodworking, A&H museums offer something for everyone. Programming includes art classes and workshops, hands-on history programs, interactive exhibitions, special events, and more.
The programs at the Art & History Museums-Maitland teach valuable skills to children that widen their view of the world, spark their creativity, and hone their critical thinking skills. The A&H preserves and interprets collections and buildings of local and national significance to deepen our understanding of the world and to save these treasures for future generations. A&H programs support learning in adults, teaching them new skills and expanding their knowledge base. The A&H studios and archives nourish local artists and historians in their respective fields.
A&H strategic plan characterizes an institution noted by:
- Unique facilities that encourage visitors and participants to discover and be inspired
- Mission based programming that creates engagement and inspiration
- An entrepreneurial culture that seeks out opportunities to enhance the stability of the organization and the achievement of the A&H’s mission
- A commitment to excellence exemplified by regular evaluation
- A community of staff, board, artists, historians, participants, and visitors who support and inspire one another