Getting ‘intimate with the art’

Appleton Museum of Art reopening with fresh new look and bold exhibits

The Appleton Museum of Art is shown on East Silver Springs Boulevard in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. The Appleton is closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2020.

With refreshed galleries and a new exhibit featuring an Ocala artistic legend, the Appleton Museum of Art is planning to reopen its doors on Oct. 15 after seven months of pandemic-induced lockdown.

Appleton Director Jason Steuber said the nationally respected museum will initially be open four days a week, Thursday through Sunday. The other three days will be used for deep cleaning and continued work developing the Appleton’s online programs it nurtured and expanded throughout its closure.

The online programs, from games and puzzles to virtual museum tours and how-to art classes, have been popular, especially with the museum’s high school and college student audience, Steuber said. The Appleton is part of the College of Central Florida and has programs through the Marion County Public Schools, too.

“Having the virtual experience really helped us reach all our campuses,” he said. “… We were very happy to remain engaged. While the doors were closed, we kept engaged online more than we ever have before.”

The museum’s closure, Steuber said, also allowed staff to “refresh” the paintings, sculptures and artifacts that are on display, as well as cleaning and painting the various galleries.

The museum suffered the loss of attendance fees and gift shop revenues, but over all it has weathered the pandemic and the closure well.

“In terms of the overall budget, we’ve been able to look forward … and we have been proactive,” Steuber said.

Jillian Ramsammy, CF vice president of institutional effectiveness and college relations, echoed Steuber’s assessment of the Appleton’s fiscal status.

“The temporary closure of the galleries has minimally impacted the Appleton Museum of Art budget,” Ramsammy said. “While we are always focused on growing membership and increasing the number of visits, the museum’s $1.85 million budget is supported through state funding and a private endowment. We have made adjustments for the safety of our visitors and team members, but you will find that the Appleton Museum is still our community’s gem.”

Some help came from applying for grants from organizations aimed at helping museums through these tough times. The Art Bridges Foundation, for example, provided the Appleton with $40,000 in grant money that was used to bolster online programs, help fund the reopening efforts and to boost marketing as the Appleton prepares to welcome people back to its galleries.

“Budgets become inspired because you’re doing good work,” Steuber aid.

Jason Steuber, the director of the Appleton Museum of Art, poses for a photo in one of the galleries at the Appleton Museum of Art on East Silver Springs Boulevard in Ocala, Fla. on. Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. The Appleton plans to reopen their doors to the public on Oct. 15 after being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2020.

During the shutdown, Steuber said all the artwork was taken down, walls were painted, lighting was improved and conservation experts were brought in to change out the galleries.

Among the exhibits the Appleton will feature upon reopening are the works of renowned Ocala underwater photographer Bruce Mozert, who not only introduced the world to Silver Springs through his photos but also invented the first underwater camera. The exhibit, known as “Mid-Century Tourism on the Silver River,” is being shown to the public for the first time and will feature Mozert’s photos of Silver Springs and Paradise Park in their heydays and, according to a CF news release, “highlight Mozert’s innovation, creativity and significance to the history of tourism in Marion County.”

Among other new exhibits will be “The Spaces Between” by mixed-media artist Christian Duran, who creates “theatrical landscapes” that, while giving a nod to historic botanical illustrations, create a way of looking at nature in abstract. Also, “The Art of Adventure” will feature serigraphs by Clayton Pond.

The new Appleton hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Groups will not be allowed initially for health and safety reasons, Steuber said. Masks are required of all visitors.

“Everything’s spruced up and ready to go,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to be intimate with the art.”

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