History of the Museum

The Wiregrass Museum of Art (WMA) was formed after a 1986 article in a national magazine pointed out Dothan’s lack of a museum. To address the issue, then-Mayor Larry Register asked Elaine Johnson, an arts-minded citizen, to explore the idea. Johnson, who had always dreamed of an art museum in the Wiregrass, worked alongside Sam Kates and Terry Slaughter to develop a plan for the founding of what would become the Wiregrass Museum of Art.

A committee of thirteen citizens was later appointed to study the feasibility of establishing a municipal museum. After a two year study, the committee recommended to the City Commission that a museum focusing on the visual arts be established. Twelve sites were evaluated for the prospective museum and the overwhelming choice was the historic Water and Electric Building located in downtown Dothan. This building was built in 1912-1913 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The City Commission converted the original committee to an official Museum Board and an appropriation of $50,000 was made to the Board to begin planning the new museum. In February 1988, the board hired Sam Kates as the project’s director. Twenty-one invitations were then mailed to local architectural firms to submit proposals for designing the museum. The local firm of Joseph L. Donofro and Associates was awarded the job. In 1988, schematic designs for a 30,000 square foot museum were unveiled with a projected cost of 2.8 million dollars to complete the project. The City Commission expressed concern over the amount needed to complete the museum in one phase. The Museum Board submitted a revised plan to the City Commission to divide the building program into four phases. The Commission agreed to accept this new plan.

Since 1988, the museum has completed three of the four phases of the original construction plan. All of the contributions for these three phases were raised by the museum board and employees with support from the private sector. The first three phases have created 18,000 square feet of gallery space, an exhibit preparation area, a vault, as well as a conference center.

The museum continues to offer educational programs, cutting edge exhibitions and community events throughout the year. WMA is continually changing and evolving, but the history of the museum would not be complete without including the dedication of a handful of believers who dreamed the impossible and saw their wishes for a new dynamic art museum become a reality for Dothan and the Wiregrass Region.

Youth Art Education Policy

Outside of tours, family days, and open house events, individuals who are not enrolled in a class are not allowed in WMA classrooms except by written permission of the Executive Director. Parents may not join children in the classroom during instruction times in order to ensure an atmosphere conductive to creativity. It is important to limit the number of adults to keep the focus on the kids, their learning, and to accommodate limited seating in the studio. Parents are welcome to stay in the museum during class but must remain outside of the classroom during instruction time.

Museum educators are experienced in creating positive learning environments for all ages and are required to go through a background check to ensure the safety of our students. Parents and guardians are encouraged to visit the studio at the end of class to see what their child has created. All docents and volunteers working with children are also required to go through background checks.

Thank you for understanding our policy and priority on the safety and well-being of participating students.

Refund Policy

The Wiregrass Museum of Art may cancel any class with insufficient enrollment; students will be notified and given a full refund. If a student withdraws at least 1 week before the class begins, he/she will be refunded for the full cost of the class. If a student withdraws 24 hours before the class begins, he/she will be refunded for half the cost of the class. There are no refunds after the start date of class, and membership fees are nonrefundable. Students are not enrolled until complete payment is received.

Terms and Conditions

The Wiregrass Museum of Art reserves the right to photograph and reproduce chosen works publication, publicity, and educational purposes. Participation in this exhibition shall be an agreement on the part of the artist to these conditions. The museum reserves the right to exclude works submitted without appropriate preparation (documentation, mounting hardware, suitable frame/mat, etc.), or which are damaged or incomplete. The museum is not responsible for the safekeeping of any works left in its care ninety (90) days after the close of the exhibition.

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Mask Policy

WMA asks that all campers ages 5 and up wear a mask during their museum visit, including classes and camps. If you don’t have a mask, we can provide one for you. Exceptions can be made for those with documented respiratory or sensory issues. We thank you for protecting your fellow visitors and our staff!

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