50 Forward – 50th Anniversary of the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens

Christina Kelso

Photo by Tina Kelso

In a characteristically vibrant display of pride and perseverance, the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens adorned its grounds in yellow balloons and celebrated the grand finale of its 50th anniversary year on Friday Nov. 11. The event, fittingly dubbed “50 Forward,” served not as a reflection upon the past but instead peered forward with eyes turned determinedly on the future.

In this spirit of ambition, the museum embarked on its fiftieth year with a renewed mission to “engage and inspire through the arts, gardens and education.” This notion of artistic growth and community was evident in the activities of the daylong event as well as in their plans for the future.

Visitors were invited to contribute to a wishing tree on the front lawn, participate in hands on art projects, compete in a scavenger hunt and attend a number of demonstrations, performances and the unveiling of the restored Tudor room gallery. Free admission was extended to anyone who wished to attend, offering a chance for members of the community who would not typically attend to experience the artwork, live music and gardens the organization has to offer.

Alongside this, the Cummer itself reached out within an impressive Jacksonville Network to establish the event. Contributors included animal encounters from the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, a presentation by the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), a performance by Players by the Sea, a live radio broadcast with WEJZ Lite 96.1 and musical performances by Edward Waters College and the University of North Florida Jazz Ensemble.

Wandering throughout each hall of the museum and standing at each gallery door were the enthusiastic workers and volunteers of the museum. In pale blue shirts and smiling faces, it was these individuals providing information on the day’s events who served as the face of the museum and gave the event its welcoming atmosphere.

Engaging visitors in conversations about the works, the blue clad brigade shared with them a knowledge and love for art. It was this passion that instilled vivid life into the paintings and sculptures arranged throughout the grounds surrounding them.

“I love working here,” said Assistant to the Director Jan Dorsey. “It’s a wonderful group of people and a beautiful museum.”

As the Friday sun moved steadily down along with the curtains, the celebration winded down. The shows ended and the people shuffled home, returning the museum to a serene stillness. However, the conclusion of this event in no way implied an end. It instead demanded a beginning.

Within the Cummer’s own borders this means a dramatic restoration of the Olmsted Garden, additions to the collection and continued upgrades to the museum’s future social center, the Edward Lane Junior Building.

Reaching further out into the Jacksonville community, the museum intends to expand its efforts to “engage and inspire” by further emphasizing youth art education and exploration programs such as the Weaver Academy of Art, the Junior Docents and the VSA art festival.

Displayed on the museum’s online 50 Forward Timeline, which represents the past, present and future of the institution, Trustee Jeff Chartrand speaks of the future.

“The Cummer museum of art and gardens is going to be a part of the largest scale of community engagement projects than this city has ever seen around a social issue,” said Chartrand.