Museum History

In 1898 a group of artists under the leadership of Lovisa Card-Catlin came together to form The Art Club of Erie. The new organization met at the Art Gallery in the new Public Library on Perry Square, where it would make its home for the next half century. The members organized exhibitions of both local and national artists, presented and discussed papers on subjects of artistic importance, and raised funds to acquire the artworks which became the collection of the Library and are proudly displayed today in the new Raymond Blasco Library on the bayfront. The Art Club moved, together with the Erie Public Museum, to the Watson-Curtze Mansion on West Sixth Street in the 1940s, and through the grass roots efforts of its members and volunteers, finally acquired a home of its own, the Wood-Morrison House, adjacent to the Curtze property, in 1956. The building and the organization gradually became known as the Art Center, and following a highly successful membership drive, and the new United Arts Fund Drive, the first professional Director was hired in 1968.

As the Erie Art Center, the organization expanded to include year-round exhibition and education programs (1969), instituted an active program of collecting and a traveling exhibition program (1973), added a darkroom (1973), frame shop (1975), studios for artists (1977), ceramics studio (1981), and commenced the Contemporary Music Series (1982). Having outgrown the Sixth Street building, a search for a new facility was begun in 1980, even as the programs were expanding into the ArtWorks building at 1505 State Street. In 1983 the move was made to the Old Custom House on State Street, and the organization's name changed again to Erie Art Museum. That same year, the former Ashby Printing Company property at 423 State and 10 East Fifth was acquired and became the Art Museum Annex.

Planning for the redevelopment of the Annex and expansion of the Museum led to the incorporation, in 1992, of Discovery Square, which raised and invested over $5 million in creating the expERIEnce Childrens Museum and in restoring and upgrading the historic buildings housing the Art Museum and the Erie County History Center. The Museum is now preparing for the groundbreaking of the new building which will link the Annex with the main Museum building, create a new, visitor-friendly entrance on Fifth Street, and provide the Museum with the extensive new galleries and other facilities with which it will serve the Erie community in the 21st Century.