The mission of the Academy Art Museum is to provide the knowledge, practice, and appreciation of the arts and to enhance cultural life on the Eastern Shore by making available to everyone the Museum’s expanding collection, exhibitions, and broad spectrum of arts programs.
The building which houses the Academy Art Museum at 106 South Street is one of Easton’s historic landmarks – deeply tied to the educational community in Easton since 1800. In 1820, the original building (now the Museum’s Lederer Gallery) was completed and became home to the first chartered school in Easton. By 1853, the building was expanded (now the Museum’s Healy Gallery) and by 1866 had become the High School of Talbot County, later renamed the Male School of Easton and subsequently the Female School of Easton. By the 1880s, the school was known as the Easton Primary and Grammar School and continued that function until 1933 when it was sold, becoming a funeral home and then an antique store.
The Academy of the Arts, the Museum’s previous name, was founded in 1958 by six Eastern Shore residents who created a place dedicated to the knowledge, practice and appreciation of the arts. The Museum originally operated out of a local church before it purchased the building in 1960 which is now its home. Many additions and improvements were made over the years to the building as the Museum’s membership grew. By the mid-1980s, due to its tremendous growth in programs, the Museum purchased the Thomas-Hardcastle house next door. In 1989-1990, after considerable renovation and restoration, the house was joined to the Museum’s original building through a two-story glass atrium adding 10,000 square feet for administrative offices and classrooms to the Museum’s space.
In 2005, the Museum added a new wing at the end of the atrium housing the Performing Arts Auditorium and a second story above for a new dance studio. At the same time, an extensive reconstruction of the Thomas-Hardcastle house provided space for two permanent collection galleries, a new library, a music studio and renovated administrative offices. Today, the Museum has become the cultural hub of the Eastern Shore for art, music, and educational programming. The Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, a distinction bestowed on fewer than 5% of U.S. museums for their commitment to excellence, accountability, and high professional standards.
The Museum’s permanent collection includes important paintings by Gene Davis and Anne Truitt among others and is especially strong in works paper by modern American and European masters. The Museum holds drawings, photographs, and prints by artists such as Pierre Bonnard, Robert Rauschenberg, and Martin Puryear, to name just three prominent individuals. Many works were added in 2008 as part of the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Museum. The Academy Art Museum enjoys close professional relationships with the National Gallery of Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum. These relationships have allowed the Museum to present exceptional exhibitions based on the collections of those outstanding institutions.
The Academy Art Museum has expanded its role beyond the traditional museum to ensure all citizens the opportunity to fully participate in a broad spectrum of exceptional cultural offerings. The Museum welcomes over 50,000 visitors and participants annually to experience national and regional exhibitions, concerts, lectures, educational programs, and visual and performing arts classes for adults and children. The vibrant concert and lecture series attracts top musicians, authors, and scholars from throughout the world. Additionally, the Museum collaborates with various regional non-profit organizations to host events in the annual Waterfowl Festival, Plein Air Competition and Arts Festival, Chesapeake Film Festival, and Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival, and other community and cultural events.