January 29, 2015

education

Art Museum Gives UNF Presence Downtown Again

Cynthia Barnett | 6/1/2009

The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville gives UNF a presence downtown again.

In the 1960s, when the University of North Florida was still a dream, the Jacksonville City Council debated whether Florida’s newest university should be part of downtown urban renewal or built beyond the city’s expanding suburbs.

Finances, space and time dictated the far-flung fringe, says Jacksonville historian Jim Crooks. From 1978 to 1987, UNF maintained a downtown center to make its courses more accessible to urban residents, Northside and Westside dwellers and major downtown businesses. But enrollment declined downtown as UNF rapidly expanded its 1,300-acre campus off Butler Boulevard 15 miles to the southeast, where more than 15,000 students now attend.

Today, more than 20 years after the university shuttered its urban site, a new partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville is bringing UNF back downtown — in the same historic, six-story Western Union Telegraph Building that once housed UNF classrooms.

Like other museums, MOCA is struggling in the economic recession amid decreases in both corporate donations and government funding, yet it “has seen admissions double as more people look for entertainment sources closer to home,” says museum director Deborah Broder. This spring, UNF’s board of trustees approved an agreement to take over MOCA and lend it up to $500,000, secured by the value of the museum’s artwork. If MOCA cannot become self-sufficient and repay the loan in 18 months, UNF can sell the art to recoup its money. The art was recently appraised at $2.4 million.

UNF President John Delaney wants to use the museum to re-establish the university’s presence downtown and give art students a high-profile location to exhibit their works. The university already is offering courses at MOCA. The acquisition, says UNF Vice President Sharon Ashton, “is a noble experiment at no risk to UNF.” Given economic realities and the university’s slimmed-down budget, she says, no other downtown opportunities are imminent. “But we remain open to hearing about them.”

Tags: Northeast, Education

Digital Access

DIRECT DIGITAL ACCESS
Add digital to your current subscription, purchase a single ditgital issue, or start a new subscription to Florida Trend.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
An overview of the features and articles in this month's issue of Florida Trend.

ACCESS THIS ISSUE »

Florida Business News

Florida Trend Video Pick

How to let altruism be your guide
How to let altruism be your guide

Matthieu Ricard, a happiness researcher and a Buddhist monk, says altruism is also a great lens for making decisions, both for the short and long term, in work and in life.

Earlier Videos | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

Superbowl Poll: My favorite thing about the big game is:

  • The game itself (go team!)
  • Partying with friends (and the food + drink)
  • Watching commercials or halftime
  • Nothing, not into it

See Results

Ballot Box
Subscribe