Lakeland, FL (October 28, 2021) – The Polk Museum of Art opens a new, original exhibition perfect for the whole family on November 13, 2021 in the Dorothy Jenkins Gallery: “When We Were Young: Children and Animals in Art from the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples.” The collection of art, curated and donated to the Children’s Museum of Naples (CMON) by fine art dealer and collector William “Bill” Meek III, was created with the experience of children in mind.
“I selected a theme I thought would be easily understood by very young children, ‘children and/or animals as a subject in American art,”’ explained Meek. This theme resulted in a collection that encourages children to observe the works and relate it back to what they recognize in their daily lives. The collection is one of the largest fine art collections of any children’s museums in the country.
The partnership between the two museums is thanks to Meek, a dedicated supporter of CMON, a founding member of CMON’s art collection committee, and an alumnus of Florida Southern College, where the Polk Museum of Art is located. He is on the Board of Trustees of the Polk Museum of Art and helped grow the College and Museum’s collections of American art since the institutions’ affiliation in 2017. Meek has more than 50 years of experience as a fine art dealer, and his family operates Harmon-Meek Gallery in Naples, Florida, which is entering its 59th season this year.
“‘When We Were Young’ is an exhibition that speaks to the heart of our mission as an educational institution for learners of all ages,” said Dr. H. Alexander Rich, executive director and chief curator of the Polk Museum of Art. “Championing visual literacy — the importance of being able to look at, understand, and talk about art — from childhood to adulthood underlies every exhibition and program we present. We are so grateful to CMON and Bill Meek for giving us the opportunity to elaborate on our mission with this loaned collection, allowing us to craft an exhibition that encourages every visitor to connect with the themes of childhood in art and to re-examine our collective worlds through more innocent eyes.”
Presenting a children- and animal-themed exhibition like that developed from CMON’s art collection also recalls the Polk Museum of Art’s earliest days. 55 years ago, in 1966, the Polk Museum of Art was founded as a children’s museum. During its early decades, the Museum hosted events such as the Live Animal Program that allowed children to observe raccoons, deer, turtles, alligators, rabbits, snakes, and even a bobcat right in the Museum.
Although the Museum has come quite a long way since the days of having live animals in the galleries — it is now an accredited Smithsonian-affiliated fine art museum — the core mission of the Museum stays the same: to provide educational and engaging art experiences for all. And this exhibition is no exception.
“We are thrilled to be able to share the gift of fine art and the learning experiences the pieces can inspire with another museum,” said Dena Rae Hancock, chief executive officer of CMON. “We have seen our members and guests enjoy this collection with their families, and we know the families visiting the Polk Museum of Art will love seeing it as well.”
“When We Were Young: Children and Animals in Art from the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples” will be on display in the Museum’s Dorothy Jenkins Gallery from November 13, 2021 through January 30, 2022. For more information, visit PolkMuseumofArt.org/WhenWeWereYoung.
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About the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College
The Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College is a not-for-profit, teaching museum that seeks to enhance lives through inspirational and engaging art experiences for all. It is the largest and only nationally accredited visual arts organization in Polk County and the only Smithsonian Affiliate art museum in Central Florida. The Museum’s hours are Tuesdays–Saturdays 10 am to 4 pm, Sunday 1 pm to 5 pm, and closed Mondays and major holidays. The facility is handicapped accessible and special needs assistance is available. Admission is free, thanks to our strategic partner, the Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Foundation.
About the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples (CMON)
The Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples is a brain-building powerhouse and Southwest Florida’s first museum devoted for children and families to learn through play. With hands-on exhibit galleries, the accessible museum invites visitors of all ages to journey through the swamps of the Everglades, weave through a maze, climb a two-story banyan tree, or experiment with the water play station. Children can become a weather forecaster, a farmer, a chef, a fisherman, an artist, an architect, or a veterinarian; explore the cold of an igloo, the whoosh of the wind, the sound of the sea, and the effects of gravity. Throughout the day special activities encourage our guests to get involved, try something new and be energized. CMON offers a variety of interactive exhibits providing kids with education, play, learning, science, technology, engineering, inventions, space exploration, art, math, storybooks, creation, building, sensory, and child development.