A&H Conversations: Katie Benson on André Smith
October 25, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Art & History Museums – Maitland
A&H Conversations invites lifetime learners like you to discuss fascinating topics anchored in Central Florida history, arts, and culture. This month we take a deeper look at our founder, J. André Smith, his prolific artworks, and the eclectic vision that drove him to create the Maitland Art Center, with A&H Exhibitions Manager Katie Benson.
J. André Smith was an architect, a theatre professional, master printmaker, painter, sculptor, and so much more. A decorated veteran of World War I, Smith’s leg was amputated as a result of an injury suffered during his military service. In the late 1930s he determined that Maitland, FL was the ideal place for his dream of an artists’ retreat devoted to creative experimentation and began construction of his Research Center (known today as the Maitland Art Center). Now home to the Art & History Museums of Maitland, the Maitland Art Center is Central Florida’s only National Historic Landmark, renowned for its unique architecture and more than 2,000 sculptures, carvings, and murals.
Smith was a passionate forward-thinker in his time, practicing a form of Episcopalian Christianity inspired by Humanist ideals and the many philosophies and religions he encountered during his travels. He was outspoken against racial bias, featuring images of multiracial citrus workers as well as nearby Eatonville, FL (one of the first self-governing all-black municipalities in the USA) prominently in his work and befriending famous author/anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, creating a sketch for her vision of a “Folklore Village.” In his lifetime, Smith not only pushed boundaries with his own art, but encouraged many other influential artists to do the same.
A&H Conversations occur during our Last Wednesday event hours, which run from 5:30-8pm. Every Last Wednesday we open up after hours, provide a bar, and offer free admission to our gallery.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Art History and International Relations from the University of North Florida, Katie Benson began her time at the A%H as a Museum Attendant. Benson quickly became enamored with the history and artistry of the Art Center, and quickly began personal research projects to discover more. Five years later, Benson now holds the title of Exhibitions Manager and is charged with the care of the permanent collection, assisting the Curatorial team, and the management of the priceless history the campus holds.