Photo: Courtesy of Art & History Museums – Maitland

Thanks to Jessi VanPelt, Communications Manager of Art & History Museums – Maitland for this Blue Star Museums guest post

The original founder of the Art & History Museums – Maitland’s campus, Jules André Smith, was born in 1880 to American parents in Hong Kong, raised in New York and Connecticut, and educated at Cornell University. Smith worked for several years as a draftsman and architect before embracing the fine arts. He was a war artist for the United States Army during World War I. Upon his return from Europe, Smith settled in Stony Creek, Connecticut, to work as an artist, excelling in sculpture, painting, and theater set design. In the years after the war, Smith suffered from serious illness due to a service injury which led to his leg being amputated in 1924. Smith described himself as having a new outlook after his recuperation from this surgery, in spirit and body, as he “rose from the dead with fresh determination and especially with a clear reevaluation of time and freedom.” At Stony Creek, Smith led a summer studio and art school called “Marsh House” in a building that resembled the one he later erected at Maitland.

In 1931, Andre came to Florida in search of a winter studio, stopping in Winter Park, Florida, where he rented a house for the season. Through a series of fortuitous introductions, Smith met Mrs. Mary Louise Curtis Bok, a Philadelphia philanthropist, who provided the financing to buy six acres of land in Lake Maitland, as well as begin the construction that would result in The Research Studio, Smith’s visionary artist colony. This project, begun in 1937, consists of twelve buildings set on approximately 2.84 acres of landscaped grounds.

The Research Studio was a lively colony that hosted artists of national prominence, including Milton Avery, Ralston Crawford, Doris Lee and many others. In 1937, this was one of only three art galleries in the State of Florida. The Research Studio along with its courtyards and gardens was designed by Smith, and constructed in stages by him or under his direct supervision. The stucco buildings are highly decorated with murals, bas reliefs, and carvings done in an Aztec/Mayan motif.

Smith died in 1959, in his studio. In 1969, the City of Maitland acquired the Research Studio, whose buildings are an example of “Mayan Revival” architecture, one of the only remaining examples of fantasy architecture in the Southeastern U.S. The Research Studio, now known as Maitland Art Center and part of the Art & History Museums – Maitland (A&H), is home to a number of significant collections, including the artworks of its founder J. André Smith, Bok Fellows including Milton Avery and contemporary Central Florida artists. In 2014, the site was distinguished as a National Historic Landmark.

Learn more about the history at: 

Present Day Research Studio

Smith’s legacy continues with contemporary art exhibitions in the galleries, two residency programs for professional artists, art programming, and a strong curriculum of art instruction in an intimate atmosphere. When exploring the campuses, you will likely find artists working in their studios, just as it was in 1937! The grounds are open for visiting 7 days a week, except major holidays, from 9 AM to 5 PM.

The Art & History Museums – Maitland consists of two campuses and five museums: Maitland Art Center, Maitland Historical Museum and Telephone Museum on the main campus, open Thursday through Sunday 11am-4pm; and Waterhouse Residence Museum and Carpentry Shop Museum on the Lake Lily campus, open Saturday & Sunday 11 AM to 4 PM.

This summer, the Maitland Art Center features Enchanted Florida: Picturing Contemporary Landscape exhibition, with works by notable Florida artists Alexander Diaz, Lilian Garcia-Roig, Corey George, and Bruce Marsh. These works show that they long for pristine nature, only to encounter a changing landscape blighted by development. They represent Florida’s land- and seascape inspired by their real experiences, as well as through the historical lens of early-twentieth-century renditions of untouched tropical nature. Their evocative works provide an opportunity to contemplate upon the impacts of human intervention on nature.

We will also offer family-friendly programming over the summer. If you visit on any of these dates, you can be part of Family Summer Saturdays: June 2, 16, 30, and July 14 and 28. Each session, from 10 AM to 12 PM, includes a 2D project and a 3D fine art project — while providing chances to work on your own, as a family, and as a group! Each week will have an element theme: Earth, Water, Wind, Fire or Metal. These activities are for families of all ages, though it’s recommended that at least one family member be of elementary school age.

If your travels take you to Central Florida this summer, we hope you will visit! Visit us online to plan your trip: And visit us in person at: Art & History Museums Maitland, 231 W. Packwood Ave. Maitland, FL 32751 (Just 5 minutes from Orlando!)

Visit more than 2,000 museums this summer thanks to a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts, the Department of Defense, and Blue Star Families. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, military families can receive free admission to participating Blue Star Museums. Find out more here.