The University of West Florida's Pensacola Museum of Art presents engaging cross-disciplinary exhibitions, educational programming, and stewards a growing collection of modern and contemporary art of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. The museum aims to promote the understanding and appreciation of art and ideas to audiences in the Northwest Florida region and beyond. We endeavor to create dialogue between university and community audiences by engendering experiences of joy, discovery, and creativity through diverse perspectives, and the transdisciplinary interactions of art, culture, the humanities, science, and technology.
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.