A Heart For Art

Kristin Van Dorn is young, enthusiastic, and has a passion for art, which is a great benefit for her new job as executive director of the Lake Eustis Museum of Art.

Although she’s originally from Boston, Kristin is working hard to cultivate an artistic mission that focuses on Southeastern contemporary art.

“We want to make the museum unique to the region,” Kristin says. “We’re looking for art that is produced today with contemporary characteristics that are typical in nature, like political issues or art that reflects the social climate of the times or of life in general.”

After graduating from the University of Massachusetts,  Kristin decided she’d like to try a warmer climate and headed to a job at the Orlando Museum of Art. When the position came open in Eustis, she quickly applied, knowing she wanted to make Central Florida her permanent residence and has been at the museum since April.

“I do love Florida,” she says with a smile. “It’s very nice to get out of the cold, and it’s also nice to be doing what I’m doing here.”

Kristin is pleased that Lake County has its own artistic culture that is still emerging and growing increasingly interesting.

“We have eight exhibitions a year,” Kristin says, “and I’m looking for works that are evocative of something else, something that brings out an emotional or intellectual response from the viewer.”

Kristin’s days are spent working on a clear-cut marketing and public relations plan for the museum. She is also responsible for the care, maintenance, and development of the permanent collection, which includes pieces by Villages resident Mollie Manaulkin and the late Lake County artist Catherine Haynes Stockwell (1895-1983), who painted many scenes in the Eustis and Mount Dora area.

Kristin’s personal mission is “making art important in our everyday lives,” and she does that by keeping ongoing education programs interesting and informative.

This past summer, her programs included a weekly event, “Night at the Museum,” for children, ages 8-12. The evenings of pizza, art projects, and educational games gave parents a break while children were at the museum.

“We want to give families opportunities for affordable, fun educational programs,” Kristin says. “We’re also planning a permanent Children’s Discovery Center, where they can learn about artists.”

She also plans to establish an after-school program in the fall along with the Second Saturdays programs, where families can come in and work on art projects together.

“There have been some 12-year-olds who have amazed me with what they know about art and artists,” says Edith Balkcom, who works in the gallery’s office. “I’m learning to appreciate art myself, and I’m especially interested in listening to everyone as they view the art we have here.”

For adults, the Friends of the Lake Eustis Museum of Art is also gearing up for an active fall with gallery talks and other programs. The museum tries to exhibit artists who can not only share their work but also will lead artistic events.

“We really want to make this a community-based gallery,” says Kristin. “We want as much involvement as we can get from everyone in the area. We’re depending upon our constituents to help us build.”

Kristin says she has always had an interest in art, even as a child, and she loves fulfilling her childhood dream in a community that also appreciates and values art.

“We hope to launch our first children’s art festival next year, and we’ll have the Fine Arts Festival in January,” she says. “Our main goal, though,  is to offer people art any day of the week that they walk in here.”

Art Smart
A brief history of the
Lake Eustis Museum of Art

Established in 1995, the museum was originally in a storefront building owned by Kace Montgomery. Constructed in 1881, the building needed extensive repairs, but Kace offered it rent-free for three years provided it was used as an art center.

A small but determined group of citizens went to work with the goal of bringing more culture and beauty to Eustis. Local businesses helped open it as a center for art exhibitions and competitions.

After artist Mollie Manaulkin offered 18 pieces of her work to begin a permanent collection, the building officially became the Lake Eustis Museum of Art. By the third year, there was money for leasing the building, regular exhibitions, art events, student art programs, organized trips to visit other museums, and an annual arts festival.

When the museum outgrew the storefront property, a search began for a larger building that offered more parking space. In June 2006, the museum partnered with Sprint to lease the building at the corner of Orange Avenue and Grove Street. The space is triple the size of the storefront, has a large parking lot, high visibility, and needed only minor renovations.

Today, the museum has a 15-member board of directors, a full-time executive director, 250 members, an active auxiliary called Friends of the Museum, and a core group of volunteers who work daily. In addition to art exhibitions, the museum offers art classes for adults and children and provides special exhibition tours for area schools.

Want To Know More?

Lake Eustis Museum of Art
200B East Orange Ave. • Eustis
(352) 483-2900

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