Tyler Museum Grows with Community Support

For more than 50 years, artists and art lovers alike have found a welcoming home in Tyler.

Tyler Junior League Launches Museum Project

A walk around the award-winning Tyler Museum of Art, full of exhibits and programs both traveling and permanent, gives very little hint of what was a pretty bleak arts scene in 1952.

Back then, a group of volunteers from what would become the Junior League of Tyler saw the need for a local arts presence, so they sent “picture ladies” out to conduct in-school education programs and began working toward a local museum. Their efforts paid off in 1960, when an arts center was established in the former Jamie T. Smith home, a first stop on the road to today’s multicultural center.

“Several of those children who were visited by the ladies are now leaders in our community,” says Kimberley Tomio, the museum’s director. “Over the years we have seen a sense of a legacy grow as the museum has really become a part of life here.”

Tyler Museum Expands Permanent Collection

The museum has two galleries as well as a library, classroom, café and gift shop. It also has a permanent collection with more than 1,500 works, including paintings, prints, photographs and sculpture by artists such as Al Held, Robert Motherwell, James Surls, Vernon Fisher, Alexander Calder, Terry Allen, and Charles Umlauf.

The permanent collection also has received a major donation of Mexican folk art from Laura and Dan Boeckman of Dallas. At more than 650 pieces, the donation is the largest ever for the museum.

“We’re very excited about the gift, because it really puts us on the map,” Tomio says.

New Museum Building Planned

The new collection is so vast that it can’t all be displayed at once. And oddly enough, the museum’s current cramped quarters are responsible, in part, for the Boeckman donation."

"We have to be a larger institution to reflect how much the community is growing,” Tomio says. “Our current site has been wonderful, but we can’t expand on it and we need to grow. When the Boeckmans heard of our plans, they began to meet with us about housing the collection.”

A 14-acre property has been purchased across from the University of Texas at Tyler campus, and funds are being raised to build a new, 42,000-square-foot facility there — almost triple the current building’s size. Fund-raising has begun, and if construction can begin in 2011 the new facility should take between two and three years to build and get settled into.

In the meantime, however, the museum is hardly standing still. Exhibits covering everything from 18th and 19th century British teapots to Chinese jade have recently graced the exhibit halls, and a full roster of education programs for adults and children continues to be mounted on an ongoing basis.

“We have the desire to bring as many diverse programs as possible to the community,” Tomio says. “We work with a lot of other organizations to do so, and we’re very happy to continue expanding those efforts.”