When Arista and Howard Joyner organized the Arlington Art Association in 1952, their intention was merely to draw interest in the arts within the local community. But the group grew, and by 1989 it had transformed into a full-fledged museum. Soon after, art patrons Nona and Richard Barrett pitched in the cash to hire a museum director, on one condition: that the AMA shift its focus to contemporary Texas art. So in 1991, Joan Davidow was named director and guided the AMA through its first decade of museum-hood until her departure in 2000. During her tenure, Davidow helped organize exhibitions of cutting-edge contemporary works (many with ties to Texas), while building the museum’s reputation as a top-notch institution without major means.
Today, the AMA has no permanent collection, but it hosts an endless cycle of traveling exhibits (usually three to six in a year) that ensure displays are always fresh. Former guests might remember scoping out the works of award winners from the Arlington Visual Arts Association’s juried show, colorful glass pieces by David Keens, or the art of Jean Riley, an artist with cerebral palsy who’s been painting since the ’60s. The AMA also holds an annual art auction each February and leases gallery space to artists.