Boca Raton Museum of Art
The Boca Museum of Art is deeply rooted in the history of its city, demonstrating the impact of the arts on small towns across the country. There is a long history behind the Museum, which dates back to the late 1940s when a group of women formed the town’s first organization, a civic club, with the purpose of building a small library. Two library board members, philanthropist Hildegarde Schine and socialite Roberta MacSpadden had been appointed to organize an Open House. They met in the 1920s Town Hall, where an estimated 1,000 people flooded the Library Open House, which included an exhibition of paintings, borrowed from friends and loaned by galleries from Palm Beach to Miami. There and then, the Library Association decided they should form an organization to further this interest in the fine arts. This was also the year when The Art Guild of Boca Raton was established.
It was in 1961 that the first Art Guild building was constructed, and in 1962, the Art Guild dedicated the building on Palmetto Park Road that the Museum occupied until January 2001, and that now houses its school of art. Since those early years, the company has grown steadily and expanded. Within seven years, the building needed to be expanded, and three studio classrooms were added. After becoming a not-for-profit corporation in 1973, the Art Guild changed its name to the Boca Raton, FL Museum of Art 12 years later, in 1985. A serious program of collections acquisition and changing exhibitions began in 1978 after the Museum hired its first full-time Director. By the late 1980s, the Board of Trustees began to address the need for future expansion to accommodate the growth of the Museum’s collections.
It was announced in late 1997 that the Museum would build a new facility in downtown Boca Raton’s Mizner Park. A new museum at Mizner Park was officially opened to the public on January 24, 2001, debt-free. With the new 44,000 square foot facility, the Museum will be able to expand exhibition, education, and collection galleries, add meeting and program spaces, and expand its programming capabilities fourfold. It serves as a permanent architectural symbol of the City’s pride in its past, its commitment to the present, and its hope for the future.
The Museum began expanding its Art School on Palmetto Park Road in June 2001, which now includes eight classrooms and a gallery for faculty and student exhibitions. The school offers over 100 weekly classes taught by more than 50 highly experienced instructors with annual attendance of nearly 3,000 students of all ages. With the introduction of a new logo in January 2013, the Museum officially shortened its name to Boca Museum of Art.
Reaching its sixth decade, the Boca Museum of Art looks toward the future with renewed enthusiasm. The Museum continues to attract people of all ages thanks to its permanent and traveling exhibitions, educational gallery, and sculpture garden. Lectures, film & video series, docent and cell phone tours, special events, and children and family programming expand the visitors experience throughout the year. A Grand Hallway, stunning Sculpture Garden, and large catering kitchen makes the Boca Museum of Art the ideal place for meetings and social gatherings.
The Boca Raton Museum of Art will present the world premiere of Art of the Hollywood Backdrop: Cinema’s Creative Legacy, a larger-than-life show that will serve as the first museum exhibition dedicated to Hollywood’s painted backdrops the grandest illusions ever created for the movies. The exhibition will open on April 20 and run through Jan. 22, 2023.
The exhibition honors the unsung heroes who created these monumental canvases for the camera, going back almost 100 years. These artists were the backbone of the film industry. The exhibition was originated by the Boca Raton Museum of Art and is co-curated by Thomas A. Walsh and Karen L. Maness, who played pivotal roles among a group of passionate Hollywood insiders to salvage these American treasures. The result in the Museum’s galleries is a magical portal that takes the terms “large-scale,” “immersive,” and “virtual reality” to a whole new level.
A collection of 22 scenic backdrops made for movies between 1938 and 1968 is on display in this exhibition. This is a well-deserved moment in the spotlight for the dozens of unidentified studio artists. Their uncredited craftsmanship made scenes of Mount Rushmore, Ben Hur‘s Rome, the Von Trapp family’s Austrian Alps, and Gene Kelly‘s Paris street dance possible. Maness considers the giant backdrop from North by Northwest “the grandfather of all Hollywood backdrops,” measuring 91 feet in width especially because it was such a key player in the telling of this story.
During the show, visitors can view interactive video reels created specifically for this exhibition, which tell the story behind each backdrop. Soundscapes have been engineered to surround visitors in the museum, including atmospheric sound effects related to the original movies, and to the scenic vistas.
Upon Walsh and Maness’s agreement to co-curate this first major exhibition of the Art of the Hollywood Backdrop, the Museum project began to take shape. They accepted an invitation to visit the Boca Raton Museum of Art in the fall of 2021 that was extended by Lippman, who had seen the television segment on CBS. A total of 20 backdrops, including Mount Rushmore, are being loaned by the Texas Performing Arts Hollywood Backdrop Collection.
Furthermore, a backdrop from Singin’ in the Rain (1952) and a tapestry backdrop for Marie Antoinette (1938) are on loan to the Motion Picture Academy in Los Angeles. Donald O’Connor danced his brilliant comic performance of “Make Em Laugh” in front of the backdrop from Singin’ in the Rain. The 1938 tapestry backdrop interestingly was reused in the North by Northwest (1959) auction house scene, a relatively common practice in the film and television industry of the time.
As “The Official Fine Arts Museum for the City of Boca Raton”, the Museum plays a key role in enhancing the cultural, educational, and economic vitality of Boca Raton and its surrounding communities, and has maintained the reputation of being one of South Florida’s leading cultural institutions, attracting more than 200,000 visitors annually to its galleries and programs.