In 1913, artist Frank A. Bicknell called a meeting of artists at Miss Florence’s residence, next door to where the Lyme Art Association gallery was to be built, to discuss the formation of a permanent organization with the long-term goal of building its own gallery. By 1914, the Lyme Art Association was incorporated, and Miss Florence deeded a parcel of her land to them for their new gallery. Charles Adams Platt, a renowned architect and artist, donated his expertise in the design of the building, and after considerable wrestling between the opinionated artists, a design was agreed upon. The final design had three equally sized galleries, all large and brightly lit by skylights. The classical arched entrance and symmetrical facade echoed Platt’s larger museum designs. The construction of the building was delayed by shortages of material and labor during the first World War, but by 1920, work was underway. It was completed in 1921 and opened in August of that year. A fourth gallery room was attached to the rear of Charles Platt’s design in 1938, and in the late 1970s, a studio was built, providing proper space for art classes which, until then, had been taking place in the gallery. In spite of the later additions, the original Platt design is what defines the building, presenting a harmonious and timelessly appealing façade as well as spacious and naturally lit rooms perfect for displaying and enjoying art.
Today the Lyme Art Association provides gallery space for juried exhibitions of member artists’ work and facilitates sales to patrons from the region and beyond. It also supports the continued creation of art through classes, workshops, and critiques. It encourages art appreciation by presenting lectures and demonstrations and by inviting the public to enjoy the more than 200 works by contemporary artists always on view and always changing. Finally, as Miss Florence did long ago, the Association fosters companionship, mentoring, and networking of artists through painting groups, monitored sessions, and social gatherings.
As the gallery looks forward to its 100th year, the Lyme Art Association continues to benefit from the vision and passion that drove the Lyme Art Colony’s artists to build their fabulous sky-lit gallery. And it is supported by the generosity and interest of art lovers just as the art colony was supported by Florence Griswold’s hospitality and passionate advocacy. Museums such as the FGM awe and inspire with world-class art, but art for the home, art to own, is necessary to prevent fine art from becoming a thing of the past. There is a symbiosis between artists and art lovers – one cannot thrive without the other: art lovers provide economic support, and artists provide art to enrich, enlighten, and delight. The gallery was built to bring the two together – to bring art lovers and buyers together with the art they love.