An Oasis for Creativity

Set in the middle of busy Central Florida is a historic, aesthetic gem that is considered by many as a “best kept” hidden treasure in Maitland. The Maitland Art Center (MAC) is a short drive from Brevard County, located just north of downtown Orlando MAC showcases the ornate Mayan Revival influences of art deco architect Jules André Smith.

The Maitland Art Center was founded as an art colony in 1937 by visionary American artist and architect, Jules André Smith. He was on his way to Miami to establish his art colony, when he visited the Maitland area and fell in love. The colony included studio space, residences and galleries. Artists traveled from all over the world to come to the center during the winter. Jules worked on the complex throughout his life, creating murals and sculptures, building a chapel and gardens and a research studio. 

Andrea Bailey Cox

Andrea Bailey Cox

“He really believed in the sense of discovery,” said Andrea Bailey Cox, the CEO/executive director of Art & History Museums, Maitland. 

In 1969, ten years after his passing, the complex was threatened with demolition. A group of concerned citizens saved it and the building now belongs to the city. The Art Center is one of the few surviving examples of “Mayan Revival” or fantasy architecture in the Southeast. Ornate with copious sculptural reliefs drawing on Mesoamerican, Asian and African iconographies, it was originally known as the Research Studio, and was part of a colony that provided a place for artists to live, experiment with new forms and escape the demands of daily life.

This tradition continues at the Maitland Art Center today, with gallery exhibitions, art programming, and a strong curriculum of art instruction in an intimate atmosphere. Visitors surround themselves with a bygone era
while exploring the collection of 12 buildings set on 2.84 acres that are filled with ornate architecture, modern artwork and lush gardens. 

The artist studio was recently named the newest National Historic Landmark. It is the first National Historic Landmark in Central Florida’s four-county area and the 44th in the state of Florida.

The experience and events at MAC are not the traditional passive experience according to Andrea. Visitors can see artists in action, hear poetry, listen to live music and explore gardens and modern artwork. With exciting events occurring this month and the location’s close proximity to great restaurants and other cultural attractions, the MAC’s status as a hidden treasure likely won’t last long. 

“We’d like to keep just the treasure, no more hidden part,” Andrea said. 



March is the perfect time to visit – a month of collaboration and experimentation for Art31. Art31 focuses on the creation of new art, the legacy of the Research Studio’s focus on experimentation and collaboration, and the organization’s commitment to engaging guests as observers and as participants.

March 1-4

Events include an art installation created by Michael Covello and Nathalie Chikhi – the public is invited to watch these artists create new work exploring their personal visions of sanctuary.

March 6

Culture Pop: Art31 Sanctuary

The backdrop for experimentation and collaboration during Art31 is set by award-winning photographer Clyde Butcher’s series “Nature’s Places of Spiritual Sanctuary.” Other Culture Pop! highlights include:

  •  The FACTUR Maker shop builds a small wiki shelter where guests can share their views of sanctuary on its interior walls.
  • Artist Danielle DeGuglimo installs abstract structures on the majestic oak tree that appear to emerge from nature.
  • Performing Arts of Maitland share themed literary readings and musical performances.
  • Chris Ware will lead guests in an interactive art collaboration.
  • Plus, food, drinks, music and more.

March 7

Clyde Butcher lecture and book signing

March 20-22

Art31 Family Weekend at the Winter Park Art Festival

Maitland Art Center 

231 W. Packwood Ave.
Tuesday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

This article appears in the March 2015 issue of SpaceCoast Living.
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