In 1988, with the support of many dedicated citizens, the James A. Michener Art Museum opened as an independent, non-profit cultural institution dedicated to preserving, interpreting and exhibiting the art and cultural heritage of the Bucks County region. The museum is named for Doylestown’s most famous son, the Pulitzer-Prize winning writer who first dreamed of a regional art museum in the early 1960s.
Both his Quaker heritage and his own impoverished youth led Michener to a remarkable “second” career in philanthropy. A lifelong supporter of the arts, he and his wife donated more than $117 million to universities, libraries and museums. When it was proposed that the former Bucks County Jail in Doylestown be transformed into a museum site, Michener agreed to lend his name to the project that would become—with extensive renovation and rebuilding—the James A. Michener Arts Center, which opened to the public in 1988. It was later renamed the James A. Michener Art Museum. Michener donated $1 million as the first endowment gift, and continued to provide endowment gifts for the rest of his life.
The Museum has evolved from a modest facility with a locally derived mission to an accredited world class-facility with a broad vision. A world-class collection of Pennsylvania Impressionist paintings and special exhibitions showcasing a wide range of historical and contemporary work attract annually more than 135,000 visitors from around the world.
Surrounded by historic prison walls, the Patricia D. Pfundt Sculpture Garden and terraces, and a landscaped courtyard, the Michener Art Museum encompasses 40,000 square feet of public space that includes seminar and conference facilities, a Museum shop and cafe, an art research library, and gallery space. The dynamic glass-walled Edgar N. Putman Event Pavilion provides a dramatic space for Museum programs as well as weddings, conferences, and special events and celebrations.
Throughout the year, the Michener Art Museum hosts a wide range of programs open to the public, including lectures, artists conversations, gallery talks, artist studio tours, dance performances, concerts and other musical performances, Ladies Nights Out, family-themed activities, and other events. The Museum also offers art classes for children and adults, which include instruction in drawing, painting, sculpting, and printmaking as well as programs designed to enhance artistic awareness.