The Huntsville Museum of Art was founded on August 13, 1970, with the establishment by City ordinance of the Museum Board of the City of Huntsville.
In 1973, the Museum’s first director was appointed, and its first exhibitions were held in a municipal building. The following year, temporary offices and exhibitions were relocated to a building on the campus of the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
In March 1975, the Museum’s first permanent facility opened to the public. The facility encompassed 17,000 sq. ft. in a wing of the Von Braun Civic Center in downtown Huntsville. In 1980, the Museum was accredited by the American Association of Museums (and subsequently reaccredited in 1989). In 1982, with the completion of a 6,000 sq. ft. addition to the facility, exhibition gallery space expanded from 6,100 sq. ft. to 8,600 sq. ft.
By the early 1990s, the facility inadequately met the growing needs of the Museum, and a new free-standing facility was planned to occupy a site in Big Spring International Park in the heart of downtown Huntsville. The City of Huntsville committed $4 million in capital funds, and a public capital campaign raised the additional $3.4 million needed. A local architectural firm was employed to design the 3-story, 46,000 sq. ft. building.
The new facility opened to the public in March 1998, with over 8,000 people visiting during the initial opening weekend. With usable gallery space of approximately 15,000 sq. ft., the new Museum significantly increased the breadth of its exhibitions for the community and region, including annual large-scale “blockbuster” exhibitions of international caliber.
In January 2006, the Museum proudly unveiled its latest addition, Plaza in the Park. Plaza in the Park added additional spaces to the lower level of the Museum opening on to Big Spring International Park. The Plaza featured the former restaurants Palette Café and Café Baba, former Signature Gallery Museum Store, Museum Academy classrooms and the Children’s Community Gallery. This was truly a place for visitors to eat, shop, create and view art. With the Plaza in the Park feature, the Museum’s total square footage grew to 52,000. Plaza in the Park now consists of the Museum Academy, Children’s Community Gallery and Pane e Vino pizzeria.
On February 23, 2007, the Museum formally announced its plans for future expansion with Masterpiece in the Making, The Capital Campaign for the Huntsville Museum of Art. The plan had an $11 million goal: $8 million for facility enhancement and $3 million for endowment.
The expansion, named The Davidson Center for the Arts for its largest contributors, opened on November 21, 2010. The new facility includes seven new exhibition galleries, the Stender Family Education Galleries (which house interactive and hands on exhibits), four new special event facilities and an adjacent parking lot for ease of access.
The Huntsville Museum of Art sits at the epicenter of a dynamic and evolving new city center that is poised to become an even greater magnet for cultural activities, tourism, in-town living and economic development.