As a Jail
In 1906, the City of Pensacola made plans to construct a two-story building to house the City Jail, City Courthouse, Police Department, and Shore Patrol. Built in Spanish Revival Style, it was the first permanent jail in the community. Prior to that there were only small, makeshift facilities to hold prisoners. Building the structure was culturally significant because it was physical evidence of the community’s commitment to public safety and justice. The judge heard cases on assault, public drunkenness, disorderly conduct, selling liquor on Sunday, traffic offenses, lewdness, and other misdemeanors. From 1908 until the 1940’s the jail usually housed 15 to 25 prisoners, three or four being women. The jail served the community for four decades until the needs of a growing population outgrew the 12,000 square foot structure.
As an Art Center
In 1954, members of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) envisioned a venue to exhibit traveling art exhibitions; offer art classes for both children and adults; and to provide meeting space for members of the community as well as a venue for lectures, films and other cultural presentations. Joining with others in the community who shared this vision, they formed the Pensacola Art Association.
When the City of Pensacola replaced the City Jail in 1954, the Pensacola Art Association sought to secure the building. The Spanish Revival structure was well-suited to become an arts center. The jail was already fireproof, secure and centrally located in Pensacola’s historic downtown district. The City agreed to lease the jail for $1 a year and the Art Association’s board members transformed the former jail cells into exhibition spaces. The Art Association (which became the Pensacola Museum of Art in 1982) purchased the building in 1988.
As an Art Museum
Over the past 63 years, the Pensacola Museum of Art (PMA) has presented hundreds of exhibitions and thousands of educational opportunities, becoming the foundation for the visual arts in our community. As Pensacola continues to evolve as a dynamic cultural hub in Florida's Northwest region, the PMA plays an even greater role in offering quality visual art experiences and arts education, now serving nearly 100,000 patrons annually.
The PMA’s Permanent Collection comprises of 20th and 21st century works on paper by Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Leonard Baskin, Salvador Dali, Thomas Hart Benton, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Käthe Kollwitz, John Marin, Miriam Schapiro, Fairfield Porter, Alex Katz, Lynda Benglis, Milton Avery and many more. The museum also owns decorative arts collections of European and American glass and African art.
The PMA offers a wide range of educational and cultural programs year round, including artist talks and lectures, adult art workshops, summer art camps for kids, Art in the Park, Suite Soiree, multicultural day events and more.
The PMA's mission has remained true to the vision of its founders as it continues to nurture the growing arts community and provide access to exhibitions that educate and inspire the next generation of artists.