After a year of meetings between their respective boards, the Tennessee Williams Key West Exhibit, its board, and membership will merge with Key West Art & Historical Society, making the Exhibit The Society’s fourth museum, and uniting the two organizations and their growing memberships of passionate Key West arts and history supporters.
“Since working with The Society in 2011 to launch the first Tennessee Williams birthday celebration and with the continued growth and expansion of the Exhibit, our board of directors thought that a merger with a larger, established non-profit was the next logical step,” says Tennessee Williams Exhibit founder and curator Dennis Beaver.
Beaver moved to Key West in 1979, when Tennessee Williams was a prominent figure not only on the island, but all over the world. After Williams’ death in 1983, Beaver decided to help bring more recognition to the iconic writer who had lived on the island for thirty-four years. With the help of The Society in 2011, Beaver organized a successful 100th anniversary birthday celebration.
“This success gave me the initiative to start collecting Williams memorabilia and to start showing them in a small space on Truman Avenue,” says Beaver.
The exhibit has grown to become a destination for Tennessee Williams enthusiasts and scholars as well as an incorporated organization with many supporting members, offering a full roster of writing and painting contests, film forums and the annual Tennessee Williams Birthday Celebration. The preserved and showcased collection of historic, archival materials helps keep alive the importance of Williams’ literary legacy and offers the largest collection of Tennessee Williams memorabilia and literary artifacts available to the public. Displays include artist Jane Rohrschneider’s recently completed model of the playwright’s former home at 1431 Duncan Street where he lived from 1949 until his death in 1983, first edition plays and books, images from the late local photographer Don Pinder, and original steps from the film adaptation of Williams’ play “The Rose Tattoo” which was filmed entirely in Key West.
“We are fortunate that Dennis has already done such a wonderful job in telling this important history,” says Key West Art & Historical Society Executive Director Michael Gieda. “As an organization whose mission is to promote and preserve the cultural heritage of the Florida Keys, The Society is honored to continue Dennis’ work in promoting Williams’ legacy.”
The Society currently complements the Tennessee Williams Exhibit with a display of Williams’ paintings at the Custom House Museum. The Truman Avenue exhibit – which will soon be called The Tennessee Williams Museum – will continue to offer visitors entertaining and informative self-guided tours as well as pre-arranged curator-led tours portraying the history of one of America’s greatest 20th Century playwrights, who won multiple awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“There has been collaboration on projects through the years and there is a history of cooperation and support that the merger will build on,” says Beaver, who will continue to consult and guest curate the museum.
The Tennessee Williams Key West Exhibit on 513 Truman Avenue is currently open from 10am-5pm Monday through Saturday and noon to 5pm on Sundays. Starting on December 15, hours will be 9:30am-4:30pm daily. For more information, contact Key West Art & Historical Society at 305-295-6616 or visit WWW.KWAHS.ORG. Your Museums. Your Community. It Takes an Island.