Big Arts Merger
AMOA and Arthouse are no more as the two become one merged arts organization
The Austin Museum of Art (AMOA) and Arthouse at the Jones Center (Arthouse) combined forces Tuesday following a vote of both Boards of Trustees. The merger, months in the making, combines the strengths of both organizations while solving the challenges each felt as well.
“This is a special moment for our community,” said Mickey Klein, the new chair of the combined Board. “We’ve set the stage for Austin to be recognized as a leader in modern and contemporary art by creating a destination and an organization that invites others to take a new look at what we’re doing in the arts in our city.”
One of the most gratifying results of this merger is that we can provide the people of our community with two outstanding, open and accessible venues for experiencing modern and contemporary art.
The new organization, as yet unnamed, will own both the historic Driscoll house at Laguna Gloria and the Jones Center at 700 Congress downtown. According to a press release issued Tuesday night, the combined organization will also be debt free.
“What makes this merger so exciting is the combination of things coming together,” said Stephen Jones, a trustee of the new board. “We have an architecturally significant building downtown at the Jones Center, a beautiful space at Laguna Gloria, no debt, a strong board and a forward-thinking artistic vision. Taken together, it all adds up to a very bright future for the visual arts in Austin.”
The two organizations have remarkably similar paths, if opposite recent histories. Last year AMOA gave up on its 30-year dream of building a downtown art museum selling the lot they owned for more than $20 million, making it one of—if not the—richest arts organization in the city.
In the meantime, Arthouse spent over $6 million building a new downtown exhibit space on Congress Avenue. While they got the space open, they struggled to raise enough money to maintain it.
Now AMOA can pay off the Arthouse debt, and the new organization can successfully expand both of their offerings to a dynamic and diverse audience. According to the FAQ's on a new website announcing the merger, "The key to expanding this capacity will be the new museum’s intent to further define and develop plans for new gallery space and a sculpture park at Laguna Gloria in the near future." Where that new gallery space will be is not revealed.
The new Board of Trustees launched a national search for a new Executive Director. In the meantime Jack Nokes, the current interim director, will remain. All 32 current employees will also stay on.
Darrell Windham, an AMOA trustee, was named President of the new combined board. “One of the most gratifying results of this merger is that we can provide the people of our community with two outstanding, open and accessible venues for experiencing modern and contemporary art,” he said, “and we will do it from a position of having all the resources we need to succeed for the long term.”
The merger brings together two organizations that originally began as one. The Texas Fine Arts Alliance formed in 1911, splitting into two organizations in 1961 when the TFAA spun off the Laguna Gloria Art Museum. TFAA later became Arthouse, while Laguna Gloria rebranded as AMOA.
The new board intends to wait on renaming the new organization until a new Executive Director is found.