The Morris Museum of Art is the oldest museum in the country dedicated to the art and artists of the American South and the only art museum in the Central Savannah River Area. Its collection includes more than five thousand works of art—paintings, works on paper, photographs, and sculptures—dating from the late-eighteenth century to the present. In addition to the permanent collection galleries, the museum hosts more than fifteen temporary special exhibitions every year.
The museum houses the Center for the Study of Southern Art, a reference and research library that includes archives pertaining to artists working in the South, and a museum store that carries a wide array of artful gifts, many handcrafted by Southern artists and artisans.
The Morris offers a rich variety of public programs—Artrageous! Family Sundays, Art Now artist lecture series, Music at the Morris, Create with Me, Films on Friday, Art at Lunch—as well as special film screenings, symposiums, lectures, book signings, exhibition openings, student and adult tours, and special programs for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. It administers outreach programs to schools, hospitals, libraries, and others, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of the CSRA, the Kroc Center, and the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, Uptown Division.
The Morris Museum of Art exists for the purpose of collecting, preserving, and interpreting the art of the American South and is dedicated to encouraging artistic inquiry, providing a rewarding and enjoyable visitor experience, and exercising civic responsibility. Its aim is the enrichment of the public.
Founded in 1985, the Morris Museum of Art was established by William S. Morris III in memory of his parents William Shivers Morris, Jr., and Florence Hill Morris.
The purchase in 1989 of 230 paintings from the collection of Dr. Robert Powell Coggins, a renowned collector of Southern art, established a focus and direction for the museum. Parts of Coggins's vast collection had been exhibited in museums around the country, and several other public institutions were vying for it when the purchase was made on behalf of the nascent Morris Museum. Another significant development of that year was the establishment of a reference library, which has evolved into the Center for the Study of Southern Art.
The board of trustees wrote and adopted the museum's mission statement in 1990, reflecting the museum's principal interest in the art and artists of the South.
On September 26, 1992, the Morris Museum of Art opened its doors to the public and attracted more than ten thousand visitors in its first three months of operation. Since then, it has strived to fulfill its promise to make the language of artistic expression in the South accessible to a large and diverse audience through dozens of exhibitions, programs, and publications.
According to the museum's charter, The purpose of the Morris Museum of Art shall be: to enhance the quality of life in the Central Savannah River Area and to broaden the knowledge and understanding of the visual arts in the Southeastern United States by collecting, preserving and displaying works of art focused upon, but not limited to, the art and artists of the American South; by creating and hosting quality traveling exhibitions; and by developing and maintaining a library and research center focusing on Southern American painting; and to contribute to the general appreciation of art through lecture programs, symposia, publications, and other educational programs.
Over the years since its founding, the museum has adopted a simpler "purpose statement," to wit: The Morris Museum of Art exists for the purpose of collecting the art of the American South and interpreting same in regional, national, and global contexts. This guideline is intended to distill and forcefully express the museum's core mission-the creation, maintenance, and interpretation of a collection of works of art that serve as a visual correlative to the culture of the South. That mission is supported by the belief that, as museum pioneer John Cotton Dana once wrote, "a good museum attracts, entertains, arouses curiosity, leads to questioning, and thus promotes learning."
The Morris Museum of Art is dedicated to encouraging artistic inquiry, providing a rich visitor experience, and exercising civic responsibility.