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Polk Museum of Art Receives AIA Florida’s Test of Time Merit Award

June 17, 2024 News

As the museum’s design partner, Straughn Trout Architects celebrates this achievement with great pride, preparing for upcoming museum expansions.

Prepared and published by Straughn Trout Architects

AIA Florida (the Florida Chapter of the American Institute of Architects) has honored the Polk Museum of Art (PMoA) at Florida Southern College with the Merit Award in the Test of Time category. Straughn Trout Architects (STA) are the creators of the greatly impactful museum located in Lakeland.

Announcement of the museum’s award, pulled from AIA Florida’s website

The museum has received many recognitions; the Merit Award from AIA Florida further decorates the quality resume of STA’s work.

Straughn Trout’s website states, “Receiving the Test of Time Merit Award is a moment of pride for our firm. It reaffirms our commitment to designing spaces that not only fulfill present-day needs but also endure as significant landmarks for future generations. We are grateful to AIA Florida for this recognition and to the community that has embraced and supported the Polk Museum of Art over the years.”

The PMoA is a nationally accredited Smithsonian Affiliate Museum, and member of the Florida Association of Museums. In 2017, it became academically affiliated with Florida Southern College. Additionally, it is one of the top art museums in the state of Florida, stated by Visit Central Florida. Magazines like the Oxford University Press and Florida Trend have featured the museum in their publications.

Original Museum Vision

Completed in 1988, the Polk Museum of Art designers envisioned it as a staple of Polk County. Ernie Straughn was in charge of facility design, with significant help from Gerald “Jerry” Trout. Both were avid supporters of the arts, and are the namesake leaders of the firm that became Straughn Trout Architects.

Original sketches of the museum from Ernest Straughn, taken from STA’s website

The building’s architecture aimed to create a cultural center that would draw in locals and visitors alike. It was to function as an innovative educational museum, offering both visual art education and exhibition programs of state-wide recognition.

They wanted it to be more than just a building.

Straughn and Trout sought to create a museum celebrated not just in Polk County, but all across the state. Eventually, the goal would be that the museum becomes a landmark. A point of pride for the community that reflects its values, culture and spirit. Beyond that, that the museum could withstand time to carry on the fervor of the community and continue to inspire those who visit. The AIA Florida Award is a testimony to the lasting design Straughn and Trout brought to life.

Renovation & Expansion Plan for the Polk Museum of Art

A huge expansion and renovation project for the museum has been in the works since early 2022. Straughn Trout Architects is heading the project, once again.

Renovations are coming to the museum’s existing 1988 structure. The current entrance will have updates, and new flooring installed throughout the first level. Second floor galleries, classrooms, and office spaces will also see updates.

The expansion will include a two-story contemporary building featuring a double gallery, classroom and art laboratory space. Over 14,000 square feet will be added to the 38,000 square feet of original space. Currently, only part of the museum’s 2,800 works from their permanent collection can be displayed at once. These new galleries will triple the available space for exhibitions.

Rendering of the museum expansion

“We are elated to build upon the legacy of this impressive museum of fine arts and, through the affiliation of FSC and the Museum, now pursue an expanded agenda to offer exhibitions of our treasured permanent collection and welcome an increasing number of visiting exhibitions from the great museums of the world,” Dr. Anne B. Kerr stated in a press release. Kerr is the former president of Florida Southern College, and member of the PMoA Board of Directors.

“We are proud to be a Smithsonian Affiliate Museum, and this expansion will also enable additional exhibits from the Smithsonian to be shared with our community and students. This expansion of the Museum will result in a dynamic arts venue that will greatly enrich the cultural offerings in our community,” Kerr said.

According to STA’s website, future expansion of the museum was always in the plans. Talks of expansion have been in the process for years leading up to the official announcement in 2022. Construction will see completion in summer of 2024.

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