The Stuart Society exists to:
Margaret Acheson Stuart’s dream of a small, superior Museum of Fine Arts, in her adopted city of St. Petersburg, Florida took shape in 1962. That year a Board of Trustees was chosen, who then chose an architect, a museum secretary and eventually a director and advisory curator. At the same time, a few interested women were asked to establish a Women’s Committee. They drew up their plans, meeting in a dilapidated building at the corner of Beach Drive and Second Avenue Northeast in downtown St. Petersburg.
Mrs. Stuart spent much of her time in the old building-the predecessor of the present Museum of Fine Arts. In one corner of the building, she created an air of quality and charm with antique rugs, fresh flowers and carefully chosen prints-a hint of her dreams for a future museum. The nonprofit Museum of Fine Arts was incorporated in 1961, and Mrs. Stuart established a $1 million endowment to support annual operations and to maintain the beauty of the grounds.
There is no record of how many women met on November 29, 1962. Mrs. Stuart, along with Rexford Stead, the first director, and Horace Jayne, advisory curator, set the goals of the Women’s Committee. THE MARGARET ACHESON STUART SOCIETY was chosen for the name, by-laws were adopted, and officers were elected.
Due to construction delays, the Museum of Fine Arts did not open until early 1965. Therefore, The Stuart Society is older than the museum itself. Stead asked The Stuart Society to coordinate the grand opening, saying, “It presents the Society with a fine opportunity to welcome a new era to St. Petersburg, and to welcome it with grace, sparkle, and élan.” In early 1970, Margaret Acheson Stuart donated $300,000 for a new auditorium and sculpture garden. The auditorium was named “The Marly Room” after the Hudson River estate that Mrs. Stuart sold to secure construction funds. These additions completed the architect’s original plan. But by the mid-1980s, the museum faced a new challenge. With its growing art collection, storage space was inadequate and a second floor was added. The renovations and addition were finished in 1989. On February 23, 2008, a $21 million addition, the Hazel Hough Wing, had its grand opening. Over 1,200 people attended the event. As with the original opening of the museum in 1965, The Stuart Society coordinated the celebration.
The Stuart Society is the major fundraiser for the Museum of Fine Arts. It sponsors several major events each year. In 2015, the events included Smartly Dressed a fall fashion show, Wine Weekend St. Pete, Art in Bloom and Affaires d’Art- a series of small events offered throughout the year including lectures, dinners and parties.
Over $4 million has been raised since the inception of The Stuart Society fifty-four years ago. The funds have supported publications, operating expenses, major exhibitions, art acquisitions, art restorations, educational programs and capital improvements.
General membership meetings are held September through May, at the Museum of Fine Arts (in the Marly Room) on the fourth Thursday morning of each month at 10:00 am. (Social hour begins at 9:30 am). The exceptions to this are: the November and December meetings are combined and held on the first Thursday of December and the May meeting, which is held on the third Thursday of that Month. Membership - Members of The Society must be members in good standing of the Museum of Fine Arts.
Active - Active members are expected to participate in the activities of the Society and of the Museum of Fine Arts.
Provisionals - Provisional members are required to serve and record a total of fifty (50) hours of combined volunteer service for the Society and the Museum, plus attend six (6) general membership meetings of The Society between March when they are first introduced and April of the following year. A requirement of acceptance into The Society is a proven desire and ability to work for the benefit of the Museum. A candidate for provisional membership must be sponsored and co-sponsored by active Stuart Society members.
Life - Life members shall make a one time dues payment, the amount to be determined by the Board. They are expected to participate in activities of The Society and the Museum of Fine Arts.
Honorary - Honorary members are such persons who are deemed worthy by reason of outstanding service and achievement. They may be granted Honorary Membership by the unanimous vote of the Board and those members present at a general meeting of The Society. Honorary members shall not pay dues to the Society.
Active and Life Members in good standing may vote and hold office.
Standing left to right: Gail Phares, Betty Jean Miller, Chris Hilton, Nancy Thomas, Margaret Bowman, Glenn Mosby, Margaret Amley, Susan Hicks, and Elise Minkoff
Seated left to right: Louise Chapin, Marilyn Hobbs, Mary Shuh, Betty Breedon, Mary Wheeler, Judy Stanton, and Bettye Black