St. Augustine Art Association Celebrates Its Centenary

By Kim Brown

Nestled in a protected nook on the northeast seaboard of Florida, St. Augustine is known for its rich history and vast cultural tapestry. It has long been the home and inspiration of many artists, dating back hundreds of years. It is also home to the St. Augustine Art Association (STAAA), a nonprofit dedicated to celebrating, supporting, and promoting visual arts in the community. What started as a modest collective of artists gathering for artistic companionship has blossomed into a foundational organization that is preparing to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

“The history and pedigree of the St. Augustine Art Association are truly inspiring,” says Jennifer Flynt, executive director of STAAA. “When you read about the founding members, the artists, see the work they produced, you can’t help but gape a little. These were absolute giants in their field. Brilliant painters, graphic artists pushing the boundaries, women fighting for equal representation, it’s humbling that this all occurred within the history of our organization.”

Northeast Florida has long been a lodestone for artists. Jacques LeMoyne was on one of the first European expeditions to La Florida in 1564, producing what is universally recognized as the best artistic records of Southeast Native American tribes and Colonial Florida life. John James Audubon arrived in St. Augustine in 1831 to draw the area’s birds for his exhaustive birding guide. And at the turn of the century, St. Augustine flourished as a winter destination for the wealthy, thanks to the gusto of oil tycoon Henry Flagler. It was Flagler who started enticing northern artists to venture south for the winter to immortalize the paradise he had built. 

On January 18, 1924, Nina Hawkins, then editor of the St. Augustine Record gathered the wintering artists and writers into what became known as the Pen and Brush Club and, later, the Galleon Club. For perspective, the oldest recognized nonprofit artists’ association in the United States, the Copley Society of Art in Boston, was founded in 1879, making the St. Augustine Art Association a mere 45 years younger. Other charter members included photographer F. Victor Rahner, writers John and Georjina Jex, and painter John Parker. The Record, especially Hawkins, worked to promote local artists through the newspaper, though the organizational structure was inconsistent. 

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Author: Arbus

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