Deland, Florida - Art Town Supreme

Teapot by Jack Earl

The “Athens of Florida” is how the people of Deland like to think of their town of twenty thousand. Home to a half-dozen museums with Art, as well as wonderful outdoor public sculpture, two big Art festivals, a college with a strong Art program, and a community filled with Art lovers, they may have a point.

It was 1876 when Henry Deland envisioned an agri/tourism center among the orange groves about forty-five minutes north of Orlando. He incorporated his self-named town in 1882. The next year he founded Deland Academy in order to add some class. This became Stetson University after the oranges froze and Deland’s fortunes died with them.

One of the most remarkable things about the Art in Deland, is that it is all within easy walking distance. We started on the Stetson campus at the Homer & Dolly Hand Art Center. This museum houses the university’s extensive collection of art by Modernist painter Oscar Bluemner.  More than one thousand pieces were donated to the University by Bluemner’s daughter, Vera Kouba in 1967. Then Mr. and Mrs. Hand donated a million dollars to have the museum created in the center of Stetson’s cultural campus to protect and exhibit this gift.

The story of Oscar Florianus Bluemner (1867-1938) is one of struggle and tragedy in the life of an artist placed in the highest ranks of American Modernist painters. German by birth, Bluemner’s genius was discovered by Alfred Stieglitz who showed his work at the 291, including him with Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keefe, Charles Demuth and a couple of others. His paintings were also at the first great Armory Show and Whitney Biennial. But despite widespread critical acclaim he sold little Art and was poor. He died by his own hand.

Exhibitions of Bluemner’s paintings and drawings are grouped for showings. The Vermillion Man exhibition of 2006 traveled to the Whitney Museum in New York to, once again, great critical reviews. On display for our visit were twenty-six images of Paterson, New Jersey. Very powerful work.

Paterson Canal - Snow, 1917
Passaic River, Paterson, 1910-15

There is a second gallery with rotating exhibitions. We were delighted to see work by artists we knew among the display.

piece by David Greenbaum

Right next door to the Hand, is the Pope and Margaret Duncan Gallery of Art in Sampson Hall; home of the School of Fine Art. Rotating shows by Southeastern and national artists, as well as Stetson faculty and students, can be seen here.

We enjoyed work by Dan Gunderson and Gary Bolding in the spacious gallery

Dance by Gunderson in the center
part of Bolding's O.D.I.O. series

And then poked our heads into the studio across the hall and found this piece by Abigail Lamb:

detail of above

A few blocks down Woodland Boulevard, which is a delight to walk along, is the Florida Museum for Women Artists. It’s one flight up, overlooking downtown Deland.

We found three galleries filled with Art created by women. The only museum in the state dedicated to promoting the Art of women. We were there for Dorothy Gillespie’s exhibition: Ovation.

Phantom's Islands
The Return Series: The Homecoming
Through the Looking Glass, North, South, East and West

FMWA offers a variety of group, individual, juried, and historic shows. There’s a gift shop and cafĂ©.

(100 N Woodland Blvd, Suite #1, Tues-Thurs: 11-6, Fri-Sat: 11-7, Sun: 1-5, closed Mon. & major hol.,

The African American Museum of the Arts is just a couple of blocks off of Woodland. And as the name implies, the museum’s exhibitions reflect primarily the culture of African Americans and Caribbean Americans. The permanent collection containing more than one hundred and fifty pieces with changing shows throughout the year.

Founded in 1994, the museum showcases the collections of Irene and Maxwell Johnson. The offerings include both established and emerging artists for the community to enjoy.

(325 South Clara Avenue, Thurs-Sat, 10 am-4 pm, Free,

I’ll have to admit that this next stop is more than a casual stroll away, but only a half dozen or so blocks. And while the Deland Memorial Hospital Museum may not sound like a place to see Art, this hospital-turned-museum on the National Register of Historic places has a collection that adds to the Artmosphere of Deland. Amid the displays of medical equipment are twenty paintings by local artist and teacher, Virginia Singer.

Rarely painting anything less than 3’x3’, Ms. Singer’s work is well suited to the museum, where it will hang in perpetuity. Even the second-floor ladies restroom has a lush floral painting on the wall.

(Deland Memorial Hospital Museum, 230 North Stone St; Wed-Sat 10-3)

Back on Woodland across from the Stetson campus is the Museum of Florida Art. Begun as Deland’s Children’s Museum in 1951, the museum has changed locations, goals, and names leading to their present building. While they have featured major shows by artists like Ansel Adams, they have developed touring exhibitions like William Wegeman’s It’s a Dog’s Life Polaroids, all the while presenting a wide array of Florida Artists. They have done great work, as well, in reaching out to the community with various projects.

 To be honest, on the two occasions I was in Deland to visit museums, the MFA was between shows, so  here are some of the sculptures outside.

(, 600 North Woodland Blvd, Tues-Sat.10-4, Sun 1-4)

While walking the streets of Deland, one is likely to come upon a piece of public art – be it sculpture or mural. Sculpture Walk begins each September and runs for one year, is organized by the Museum of Florida Art.. Here are a few pieces I found:

by Joan Balilker

by David Cumbie
by John Wilton
Flamp by Jack Messersmith
Airborne by Charles Scala

And even more Art:

In the Volusia County Courthouse (120 W. Indiana Ave) you can see the work of Jackson Walker. The ongoing exhibit of his paintings, on loan from the Museum of Florida Art, is called Legendary Florida and can be seen during business hours.  (

Mr. Stetson
Return to Big Cypress

As if this wasn’t enough, there is also Fourth Friday in Artisan Alley (6 to 9), and two major Art festivals.

Fall Festival of the Arts is the weekend before Thanksgiving, and fills Woodland Boulevard with two hundred national artists. With over $45,000 in awards, it was voted best outdoor fine art fest by Florida Living Magazine. Strong Youth Art area on West Indiana Ave.

In the spring there is the Outdoor Art Festival at Earl Brown Park, South Alabama Avenue. Begun in 1965 on the streets of downtown Deland, it’s now just a block off Woodland in a greener setting.

And here are more Art we found:

the Luther Burbank of Florida, Lue Gim Gong
untitled and unsigned

And before we leave Deland, I have to point out the refurbished Athens Theatre, home of the Sands Theater Company.

You would be hardpressed to find this much Art in close proximity anywhere in the world.

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