Located in Abilene, Texas, the Grace Museum is an American Alliance of Museums-accredited art and history museum celebrating the cultural past, present, and future of the West Texas area, offering permanent and rotating exhibits and educational and community programming for visitors of all ages.
The history of arts and cultural museums in the Abilene area dates back to the 1920s, with the opening of a fine art gallery within the city’s Carnegie Library branch. In 1937, the Art League of the Abilene Woman’s Club founded the Abilene Fine Arts Museum, which was opened to the public in a facility within the city’s Rose Park public recreation area. The museum’s collections grew throughout the 1930s and 1940s due to the donation of fine arts works from the personal collections of many of the city’s civic leaders and prominent residents, meriting museum relocation to several different sites within the city’s downtown area throughout the mid-20th century.
In 1987, the museum joined forces with the Abilene Preservation League to purchase and preserve the city’s historic Hotel Grace building, a 1909 four-story structure formerly operated as the Drake Hotel before its closing in 1973. Throughout the fundraising efforts of civic leaders and donors, the 55,000-square-foot hotel was completely renovated and restored to its historic condition. The renovated building was intended as a space for the Grace Cultural Center, which revamped the existing Abilene Fine Arts Museum into an art and history center focusing on the cultural history of the West Texas region and offered educational and cultural community programming to the city. The Grace Cultural Center was opened to the public in February of 1992, with the renovated hotel building being listed on the National Register of Historic Places the same year. In 1998, the museum was rebranded as the Grace Museum.
Permanent Exhibits and Collections
Today, the Grace Museum is one of nearly two dozen restored historic buildings in downtown Abilene that have been converted into cultural attractions and community resources, earning the city recognition as one of the leading cultural centers in the state of Texas. The museum is an accredited American Alliance of Museums facility, offering a variety of art and history resources to the Abilene community. In addition to permanent galleries and exhibits, the museum offers a variety of rotating exhibits, educational resources, and public event opportunities for families and visitors of all ages.
Five major art gallery spaces are offered throughout the museum, showcasing pieces from the museum’s permanent collection of multimedia artworks. More than 5,000 pieces across artistic disciplines have been acquired by or donated to the museum since the 1930s, including pieces from the fields of painting, drawing, print, photography, and sculpture. Artists on display include Andy Warhol, Helen Altman, James Surls, Melissa Miller, and Russell Lee. Special museum collections include the Alice and Bill Wright Photography Collection, the Texas Art Collection, and the Clint Hamilton Collection, which features artwork by contemporary American artists connected to the Texas region.
In addition to permanent art collections and exhibits, the museum also presents 12 annual temporary art exhibitions, with themes focused on the history of Texas and American fine art. Past exhibitions have focused on styles and genres of art, including Texas Modernists, or on depictions of subject matter related to the American Great Plains and Old West, including Home on the Range: Where the Prairie Meets the Plains in Central West Texas. Many temporary exhibits also produce multimedia materials and exhibition publication as supplemental material and preserve exhibit contents.
A history gallery exhibit is featured, showcasing civic memorabilia dating back to the 1850s in a collection started by the Abilene Junior League in 1976. Major collection holdings showcase a variety of documents, photographs, personal and business artifacts, textiles, and other civic memorabilia from the city’s first century. Recreated historic structures are showcased on the museum’s third floor, including a reconstruction of a 1920s-era guest room within the Grace Hotel. An online document portal created in collaboration with the West Texas Digital Archives and the Portal to Texas offers additional historic materials. A children’s gallery space is also offered on the museum’s second floor, featuring a discovery learning center with replicas of city structures and interactive arts and civic-themed activities.
Ongoing Programs and Education
A wide variety of educational programming is presented by the Grace Museum, including guided field trip opportunities for elementary and secondary school students and outreach distance learning opportunities bringing exhibit materials directly into the classroom. Public special event programming includes Pop Up Make ‘N Take art workshop events for families, Tot Spot activity classes for preschoolers, and a variety of lectures and luncheons for adult civic enthusiasts. The Grace Museum may also be rented for private special events, including weddings, receptions, and business conferences.
102 Cypress St, Abilene, TX 79601, Phone: 325-673-4587