A long series of meetings culminated in 1991 in which I was privileged to be a participant, a part of a core group looking ahead to the future of the Dunedin Fine Art Center. The meetings were hosted by Architect Rod Collman and always included my late wife and DFAC Director, Nancy McIntyre, Susan and Richard Gehring, Dr. Irwin Entel, and myself. Others would include staff members and a variety of community stakeholders. A Master Plan was proposed by Collman and became DFAC’s road map for the next 25 years.
When Nancy began working at DFAC in 1986, she could see the promise of a bright future for this art center if she could muster others to commit to her vision. It had already grown in its early years from 2,500 square feet to 4,000. I started working with her eight months after she started. The Gehrings were major proponents. So was Collman. His career in architecture spans the entire history of DFAC and every phase of its growth and success.
“I started working for Fasnacht and Schultz Architects as a draftsman in 1968,” said Collman. “We started designing the first building for DFAC in 1969. There have been five expansions since then and I have been proud to be at the heart of every one of them, this time with SDG Architecture. In 1991, we developed the Master Plan for the five acres allotted to DFAC by the City of Dunedin. That is when we had the vision for the two-story building and set up the grid leading to the 2016 expansion completion happening today. That’s pretty significant long-term visioning on the part of some very dedicated people.”
Current Executive Director GeorgeAnn Bissett was hired in 2005, following the departure of McIntyre. “The phased capital campaign, called Creative Visions, was created in the 1990’s”, said Bissett. “It was part of the planning for the expansion and renovation completed in 1998 that took the facilities from 8.000 square feet to 18,000. A major part of this and the following campaigns was a grant program from the State of Florida Division of Cultural Affairs for organizations with a master plan that included building in phases over a period of years,” said Bissett.
I oversaw two major expansions in my 19-year tenure at DFAC and wrote grant applications around 1988 that began a long term relationship with the State of Florida, Division of Cultural Affairs, that opened the door to larger scale funding. Also supporting DFAC from that time and earlier was the City of Dunedin. Gladys Douglas became a major contributor beginning with the campaign of 1996-98 and continued through the current project. The David L. Mason Foundation gave a large gift at the same time. Large gifts from the Estate of Valerie and Louis Flack and the Estate of Oskar Elbert, planned in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, came to fruition in recent years.
The Creative Visions campaign of 2010, Bissett’s first capital campaign for DFAC, totaled $2.8 million. The Creative Visions campaign of 2014 was a $5 million-plus project. The State of Florida gave $1 million in a phased grant and the City of Dunedin gave $500,000. According to Bissett, the remaining $3.7 million came from private donations. By the time the State of Florida sent the final grant payment, the project was paid off, a tribute to Bissett’s capability as a fundraiser and community leader.
“We are Florida’s premier art center,” said Bissett. “When I was hired here, I could see how well it was kept after, how excellent the exhibits were in support of the teaching program. There was a very competent staff in place to do those things. My job has been to carry on the legacy of the founders and of the former Executive Director, Nancy McIntyre. Nancy never veered off of the mission,” she said. “I have been able to bring my background in fundraising to the Center at a very important moment in the Center’s history.”
That is how you build a great art center. Quality, tenacity, planning, grass roots in the community. Today, DFAC has grown to 44,000 square feet of purpose-built space and the programming to fill it. As Rod Collman said, that’s pretty significant long-term visioning on the part of some very dedicated people.
I am proud to have played a role. Kudos to the visionaries from the 1960’s to the present..