Mystic Museum of Art began under the leadership of nationally recognized landscape painter, American Tonalist and Impressionist Charles Harold Davis who, in 1891, settled in Mystic after having lived in France for about ten years. His reputation drew other artists to the area and eventually an artist colony formed in Mystic. The members of the artist colony formally organized the Mystic Art Association in 1913. The Association built and opened the Water Street art gallery in 1931, and accepted its first permanent art collection, donated by the widow of Charles Davis in 1933.
In 1979, the Mystic Art Association evolved into “an educational non-profit, non-stock corporation…” known for fostering an appreciation of Mystic’s early artists and their works. In 2004, the Board of Trustees and membership voted to have the Mystic Art Association, Inc. operate under the trade name of Mystic Arts Center (MAC) to more accurately reflect the organization’s mission to serve the community.
In 2015, the organization was able to conduct and complete a three-year strategic plan thanks to a capacity building grant from Connecticut Humanities that funded the engagement of a professional consultant. The process provided a tremendous opportunity for MMoA leadership to discuss their identity, value to the community and contribution to scholarly programs. A large survey of constituents and focus groups offered feedback to help MMoA leadership identify strengths and opportunities as well as a name that would best describe the next century of activity for the 102 year-old organization. The Board of Trustees voted to change the trade name to Mystic Museum of Art (MMoA) to better communicate its intention to operate all of its affairs according to the established professional standards of the museum industry. This new designation befits the organization’s community-minded spirit, broad educational focus, and standards of excellence. The Museum designation also requires that MMoA operate to the standards benchmarked and espoused by the American Alliance of Museums, the New England Museum Association, and the Association of Art Museum Directors.
MMoA will continue to engage the regional art scene, teach art, foster creativity, and serve as a gathering place for the exchange of ideas. Once adequate funding is secured, the Permanent Collection, will undergo a thorough assessment and review to determine its long term use, how the Museum cares for it and the development of a conservation plan. Executive Director, George King, stated that “the museum designation underscores, above all, our wish to be committed to community and place. We will be introducing and assimilating into the existing program, exhibitions that have scholarly content focusing on diverse subjects, both historical and contemporary with national and international merit, that will require exhibiting our collection, while borrowing works from other private and public lenders.”