Daytona has not one, but (count ’em) one-and-a-half art museums! They’re located within a stone’s throw of each other on a 90-acre nature preserve that gives you the feeling you’ve stumbled upon civilization while trekking through the Amazon rain forest.
I say “one-and-a-half art museums” because one of them, the Museum of Arts and Sciences (MOAS), is a kind of mash up of art galleries, fossilized antiquities, a planetarium, and a one-of-a-kind repository for Coca Cola memorabilia donated by the Root Family, the industrial clan responsible for the design and manufacture of the world’s first Coke bottle, or at least the first one to take on the iconic shape we’ve all come to know and love. The year 2015 marked the 100th anniversary of its debut, and we were pleased to see it on display in the museum’s Root Family wing.
The bottle on display was a lot more zaftig than the ones you see today; curvy and feminine in the way women used to look and dress back in the Edwardian age. Along with the bottle, other examples of Coca Cola memorabilia were on display – not to mention the family’s Lincoln Continental, and their own private railroad car, which stood outside the Root Wing in all its nickel-plated glory.
After…well, rooting around in the Root Family Museum, we did a relatively speedy trip through the art galleries, had a gander at the fossilized remains of a giant ground sloth, and made our way to the planetarium. I wish I could tell you more about the Planetarium show, but just as the lights began to fade, so did I. I conked out and took a little afternoon siesta, waking with a snort as the credits rolled across the vaulted ersatz sky.
From the MOAS we drove the short distance to the Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art. Over the years, the Browns have amassed over 2600 pieces of Florida themed oils and watercolors, some dating back as far as the early 1800s. There wasn’t a lot of variety in the collection; lots of tropical landscapes mainly. The pieces were expensively framed in gold, which – in my humble opinion — lent them more gravitas than I thought they deserved. For me, the architecture far outshone the art. This in turn reminded me of something Philip Johnson once said when a similar critique was leveled at the Guggenheim in Bilbao; “When a building looks this good, f#*k the art!”
The guy at the desk told us that the building was designed to resemble a Florida cracker house. “Cracker houses,” he said, “were built up on stilts and had vaulted ceilings to allow for circulation.” The museum, of course, was not built on stilts, but it did have vaulted ceilings and a grand staircase that led to the galleries on the mezzanine. The building’s exterior was handsomely glad in wooden slats.
Also handsomely clad was the museum’s eponymous founder and benefactor, Hyatt Brown, whom the guy at the desk pointed out to us as that slim, well-tanned, white-haired gent in the dark blue suit and tie, sitting with another guy in the museum’s coffee shop.
I was soooo tempted, but I successfully fought off the urge to go ask for a selfie with him.
Both museums located at 352 S. Nova Rd. Phone: 386-255-0285, Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10:00 am to 5:00 pm / Sun. 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, www.moas.org