MOCA celebrates centennial


With an enormous installation by acclaimed artist Frank Stella dominating its atrium and a sizable crowd of supporters gathered for the festivities, the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville marked its centennial in grand style Thursday, Feb. 29.

Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan, who has made arts and culture a priority of her administration, read a proclamation celebrating the occasion, tracing the history of the museum from its earliest days in the Roaring ’20s through its 21st century affiliation with the University of North Florida.

Deegan noted that MOCA is “the oldest art museum in the region and the second contemporary art museum to be established in the United States” and paid tribute to the “four, visionary local women artists” credited with its founding.

University of North Florida President Moez Limayem called MOCA “the bridge between UNF and this great community.”

He added that research showed a relationship between students’ success and their exposure to art in their education, calling the creation of a partnership between the university and the museum in 2009 a “defining moment.”

“MOCA is UNF, and UNF is MOCA,” he declared.

In addition to the multi-story “Jacksonville Stacked Stars” installation, Stella was represented in several prints exhibited around the lobby and a special slideshow and lecture in the museum’s theater presented by Senior Curator Ylva Rouse.

Rouse traced the artist’s career through its evolution over several periods and described her visit two years ago to Stella’s studio in Rock Tavern, New York, a former airplane hangar.

“He really is one of the 20th century’s most innovative and productive artists,” Rouse told the assembly.

Because the sculpture, consisting of two tremendous “stars” stacked vertically, was too large to bring into the museum whole, it had to be assembled in the atrium from pieces small enough to pass through the front door. It’s weight was also an issue, and a special base had to be created to distribute that weight over a sizable area.

This is Stella’s fourth MOCA exhibit, the last being in 2018.

“I am so grateful that he has added MOCA Jacksonville to his constellation,” said Executive Director Caitlín Doherty.

Preston Haskell, presenting sponsor for “Project Atrium: Frank Stella” and longtime friend of the artist, expressed a hope that such occasions would attract other artists, galleries and institutions to Jacksonville’s downtown, helping it to become more of a cultural center.

MOCA is located at 333 N. Laura St. It is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and the first and third Wednesday until 9 p.m. Admission to the museum’s first floor is free to the public. Admission fees beyond that are modest.

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