Now-closed Foosaner Museum collection moved to Ocala college

Clyde Butcher is known for his large format black and white landscape photographs. Some of Butcher’s work was part of the Foosaner collection.

Artwork from the now-closed Foosaner Art Museum has moved to the Appleton Museum of Art at the College of Central Florida in Ocala, but college officials there would not say when or if the collection might be viewed by the public.

“We don’t have many details to share right now,” said Lois Brauckmuller, the director of marketing, public and community relations. “I can confirm that the collection has transitioned to the Appleton Museum.”

Florida Institute of Technology signed the transfer agreement after selling the museum property and the Renee Foosaner Education Center next door in the Eau Gallie art district in April 2020 to the owner of Northboro Builders Inc. The college said it became too costly to maintain the museum without increased community support, but kept it open through May to abide by the 2011 acquisition agreement that promised another decade’s operations. FIT had received $1 million from the Foosaner Foundation and Dee Negroni-Hendrick. Officials said they spent $1.8 million to bring facilities to code and another $7 million to keep it operational.

“Over time, it’s just become an untenable situation to pour money in. We hope that the community will step up to preserve this community asset,” FIT President Dwayne McCay said in a prepared statement.

The museum was established in 1978 as the Brevard Arts Center and Museum. Its permanent collection included an estimated 5,000 pieces of art worth $6 million that spanned art over 20 centuries. Clyde Butcher’s large-format black and white landscape photographs, works by painter Isabel Bishop and Janet Fish and works by Dutch sculptor and artist Fritz van Eeden, who lives locally, were included.

Kathy Engerran, the interim director of Brevard Cultural Alliance, said the museum closure “and the loss of the collection for art lovers and citizens of Brevard County is just so unfortunate.” She said the alliance, the Community Foundation of Brevard and the art community tried to keep part of the Foosaner collection local, “but that effort was not successful.”

Northboro Builders officials did not reply to questions about their proposed project, but an FIT press release quoted Lawrence James, CEO of Northboro, as saying he plans to raze the museum building to build a 200-room “boutique” hotel, restaurant and bar and will convert the education center into “flexible shared office space.”

Engerran said, “Our hope is that one day Brevard will once again have an art museum.”