Museum History

Since its inception the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, Inc. (MOCA Jacksonville), a 501(c)(3) educational institution, has enriched the cultural life of Northeast Florida by providing excellence in the visual arts. MOCA Jacksonville is dedicated to: collecting, preserving and interpreting notable works of modern and contemporary art; presenting exhibitions of local, regional, national and international significance; developing first-rate educational programs; and presenting a mixture of artistic disciplines and creative programs to reach all segments of our diverse community.

MOCA Jacksonville was founded in 1924 as the Jacksonville Fine Arts Society, the first organization in our community devoted to the visual arts. In 1948 the Museum was incorporated as the Jacksonville Art Museum, and in 1978 it became the first institution in Jacksonville to be accredited by the American Association of Museums.

In late 1999 the Museum acquired its permanent home, the historic Western Union Telegraph Building on Hemming Plaza, adjacent to the newly renovated City Hall, and became the Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art (JMOMA). The building facade was restored to its original Art Deco style, while the interior was completely refurbished to house the Museum’s galleries, which feature its permanent collection as well as traveling exhibits, educational facilities, a theater/auditorium, Museum Shop and Cafe. In 2000 a series of preview exhibitions opened in a temporary exhibition space. Total renovation of the 60,000 square foot, six-floor facility was completed in 2003, culminating in a grand re-opening in May of that year.

After moving to its downtown location the Museum experienced rapid growth in both the sizes of our membership and our permanent collection. The many substantial additions to the collection increased not only its quality, but also its size to almost 800 pieces. After completing a recent review of the current scope of the Museum’s collection and exhibitions, discussions were held regarding the distinctions between modern and contemporary art, as well as the Museum’s mission and vision for the future. It was decided that in order for the Museum to convey a strong sense of identity and purpose to both the community and other art institutions across the country, its name should change. Therefore in November 2006 JMOMA became the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville.

In 2009, MOCA enhanced its commitment to providing Jacksonville with the highest quality arts education when it became a cultural resource of the University of North Florida to host special lectures, college-level art courses, and special faculty and student exhibitions

MOCA Jacksonville originates over 95% of its exhibitions and provides accompanying catalogs with scholarly commentary. In the past three years the Museum has produced over thirty exhibitions of works by such renowned contemporary artists as to attract visitors from all over the Southeast.

The Museum continues to be a cornerstone of Jacksonville’s multi-billion dollar downtown revitalization plan, its exhibitions and programs bringing new visitors to the civic core during the day, at night and on weekends. Educational programming includes children’s literacy initiatives and weekend art making classes as well as regular tours, lectures, films and publications for children and adults.