In 1989, when the private Metropolitan Museum and Art Center Collection (MMAC) in Coral Gables closed, its Board ensured the intact survival of this important collection by transferring it to the care of Florida International University. With over 2,300 objects that include cultural artifacts, paintings, sculptures, prints and photography, the MMAC collection comprises a significant component of the permanent collection. Included is a notable selection of American and Latin American artworks spanning from the 18th to the 20th century created by such renowned artists as William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), Eadweard Muybridge(1830-1904), Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991), Duane Hanson (1925-1996) and Agustin Fernandez (b. 1928). The collection also features an extensive representation of American prints from the 1960’s and 70’s including the Decade Portfolio by Robert Indiana (b. 1928). In addition, encyclopedic highlights include rare Japanese netsukes and bronzes from Southeast Asian and Benin cultures. Containing a superb array of artifacts and art objects, the MMAC collection preserves an important piece of the region’s cultural heritage and brings depth and historical perspective to the Frost Art Museum’s collection.
A brief history of the Metropolitan Museum and Art Center
The history of the Metropolitan Museum and Art Center is the story of exemplary public and private patronage in the Greater Miami area. It began when a group of art “pioneers” decided to bring world renowned artists such as Robert Motherwell, James Brooks, and Josef Albers as well as art scholars such as Sam Hunter and H.H. Arnason to Miami for seminars and workshops. In 1960 The Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami, then called the Lowe Art Gallery, generously offered space for those activities. After one year this experimental project outgrew the facilities of the Lowe Art Gallery, and in 1961 the group founded the Arts Council, Inc.
In 1962 Mr. Arthur Vining Davis allowed the group to use two large vacant buildings at his Arvida nursery. By 1963 The Arts Council, Inc. became a not-for-profit organization and a Board of Trustees was formed. In January 1965, the organization purchased two buildings from the Davis estate for a community art center which included galleries and classrooms. It was located on approximately six acres of land near Kendall Drive in the South Dade area. The Arts Council then began actively exhibiting and collecting works of art.
The program continued to expand and the concept of an active school with a museum began to grow. The name Arts Council was replaced with the name Miami Arts Center, Inc. to represent the model of a community art center. The mission of the Miami Art Center was to inspire the people of Miami to develop a worthy facility as a part of the community’s cultural life.
The Miami Art Center merged with the Miami Museum of Modern Art in 1973 and formed the Metropolitan Museum and Art Center (MMAC). In 1975 the MMAC sold its property on Kendall Drive and restored and adopted the historic Biltmore Country Club in Coral Gables to serve as its new home. Through a cooperative agreement with the City of Coral Gables, the MMAC continued to present premier exhibitions of a variety of collections including local, national and international collections as well as its own impressive collection. In addition innovative programming with guest artists and lecturers, classes and special events were presented through the School of the Metropolitan Museum. At this time the Museum also had several important loan collections, among them the costume collection of Fashion Group, Inc.
In 1989 Florida International University, under the leadership of President Modesto A. Maidique, and upon the approval of the Board of Regents, entered into an agreement with the Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum and Art Center to acquire the collection. The transfer of the Collection to FIU was spearheaded by Carol Weldon, then President of the MMAC. Reflecting on the choice to move the Collection to FIU, Weldon recalls, “Housing the Collection at a State University was significant because we could be assured the work will be preserved in perpetuity. When we initially met with President Maidique he expressed sincere enthusiasm for the Collection and helped facilitate arrangements to transfer the Collection to the care of FIU.” Weldon further remarked that former Director, Dahlia Morgan’s passion and keen direction of the Museum were instrumental in the acquisition, “It’s a wonderful place for the collection to be and Dahlia was very excited, as were we, to find a home for it.” Weldon reported proudly that the prestige of this Collection helped influence subsequent donations by important collectors, which significantly helped the museum build its permanent collection.
Now in its fifth decade, the MMAC Collection has become an integral part of the Frost Art Museum at FIU. With the construction of the new museum facility, the Collection will find a new home where it will be conserved, exhibited, studied and will continue to inspire future generations.