The Founding of The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens

June 9, 2012 1 comment Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The Cummer Museum of Art and its wonderful gardens have become one of the most valuable assets that the city of Jacksonville possesses. It is also the crown jewel of the Riverside Neighborhood, emblematic of the area's passion for classical art and culture. Join us after the jump to hear how the Museum was founded! A guest article by Amber Sesnick!

After the death of her husband Arthur in 1943, Ninah Cummer redirected her passion for her gardens into a passion for art, adding many pieces to the collection she had begun with her husband. During the fifteen years between their deaths, Ninah grew her art collection to sixty pieces, all of which are still among the Museum’s collection today. Ninah's love of art inspired her to plan for a new a museum, a place to share her passion with the people of Jacksonville. She was no stranger to philanthropy and community-based work; consequently,  she made the arrangements to found the Museum. Knowing that the initial gift she was making would not sustain the Museum forever, she encouraged the community to help where they could.

She wrote, “My contribution to my Art Museum will be to furnish my pictures and the location, and after that others must carry on.”  In 1957, the year before her death, her intent was leaked to the press and it became necessary for her to make a formal announcement.  She wrote that her bequests would “make only a small beginning toward a large vision” and hoped “that others will share this vision and by their interest and contributions will help establish here a center of beauty and culture worthy of the community.”

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, then named The Cummer Gallery, opened its doors on November 11, 1961.  The Museum was built on the site of the Riverside Avenue home of founders Arthur and Ninah Cummer.  The opening of the Museum hosted one thousand guests, the attendance of which included Jacksonville Mayor Hayden Burns and Florida Governor Farris Bryant.  Burns was noted as saying, “The people of Jacksonville have never received a gift comparable in generosity or beauty to the museum… a testament to the heritage of the past and representing the strength and character of those who were leaders of Jacksonville in the past.”

Guests were treated to a musical performance by pianist Gerson Yessin and members of the I Musici Society.  The Cummer’s collection was on exhibit, as well as three special exhibitions: a collection of 51 etchings by the Scottish-American artist James McBey (now part of the Museum’s permanent collection), a selection of French paintings on loan from a New York gallery, and an exhibition of American art on loan from the National Academy of Design.

Written by Amber Sesnick,
Visitor Services & Social Media Coordinator a

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
829 Riverside Avenue
Jacksonville, Florida 32204 / (904) 356-6857
Like The Cummer on Facebook
Follow The Cummer on Twitter