Under new management – Apalachicola The Times
After being largely closed since the start of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, the Apalachicola Center for History, Culture and the Arts is set to reopen, after city commissioners approved last week a management agreement with a newly created African-American nonprofit organization.
Commissioners voted unanimously at a special meeting Oct. 11 to support a one-year lease by the North Florida African-American Corridor Project, Inc. at a nominal cost of $10 per year to operate the HCA .
The deal was met with enthusiastic support from the commissioners, their only concern being how long the NFAACP would have to vacate the premises in the event that it seceded from the city.
Apalachicola resident Bonnie Davis, who handled the legal work on the contract with City Attorney Dan Hartman, asked for 120 days while the city attorney asked for 60.
“If the deal falls through, we’ll start looking,” Davis said. “Our logic is that if the deal falls through, we’ll have to find another place to go, and if there aren’t that many places, we’ll have to look around for a place.
“Ninety days would be a compromise but we would like to have 120,” she said. “Sixty days would be a boost.”
The commissioners each said they would support 120 days as the period granted to vacate the building.
The NFAACP will not be required to pay for utilities in the first year, but may be asked to contribute in granted years thereafter. “Let them have a year under their belt before we get into the thick of it,” Davis said.
Willie Tolliver, a retired social work professor from New York who now lives full-time in Apalachicola, where he was born and raised, spoke on behalf of the NFAACP, noting that plans are to bring an exhibit to Fort Gadsden, the so-called “Negro Fort,” of the University of West Florida in Pensacola, in time for the Florida Seafood Festival Nov. 4-5.
The NFAACP is also planning for New York documentary filmmaker Marcia Smith, whose family has deep roots in Apalachicola, to install the pop-up exhibit in the Hill neighborhood that she created in 2020.
Smith is a member of the NFAACP Board of Directors (see box), which will also serve as the HCA’s governing board.
State grant to help fund the Hill Museum
The deal marks a giant leap from the NFAACP, which was incorporated in 2020 after Florida A&M University architecture professor Andrew Chin worked closely with the outreach officer FAMU Dreamal Worthen and Apalachicola resident Myrtis Wynn to build on Smith’s pop-up success. exhibition, which mapped the properties on the Hill that African Americans owned and lived in, to create a long-term vision.
“They were interested in what could be done in Apalachicola, to help them tell the story of how the black community thrived during segregation,” Tolliver said.
“During the period from emancipation to 1968, when African African communities were separated by law, people of African American descent were expected to create their own economies (and not be) dependent on the fanciful nature of everything would happen,” he said. “One way to stabilize black lives was to fill in separate spaces the reality people had to take.”
As of May 2020, the “corridor” project had been incorporated by the state, so named because the concept is to ultimately examine ties with black communities in the Gulf, Gadsden and neighboring communities – all woven together by commercial, educational, and family connections, such as Money Bayou Beach on Cape San Blas, which was transformed in the early 1950s by five Port St. Joe businessmen into a thriving beach resort.
By the end of 2021, Chin and Smith had landed a three-year, $500,000 Apalachicola Cultural Planning Grant from the Mellon Foundation, to be administered under the auspices of FAMU.
The purpose of the grant is to support “cultural asset mapping, public art programs, art and design residencies, and community planning.” Additionally, the State of Florida Division of Historic Resources awarded the NFAACP a $1 million grant, with a cash match of $250,000 from the city, which would go towards establishing a museum on the site of the garden adjacent to the Holy Family Center at K. Avenue and Dr. Frederick Humphries Street.
“This Mellon grant didn’t anticipate something like this until three years later,” Tolliver said.
Drawing on FAMU’s experience in administering grants, “Mellon representatives wanted to ensure that the funds would be used to grow us as a reputable organization. We have to demonstrate that we can handle the money and that kind of managerial responsibility.
This is why the HCA management agreement is consistent with the eventual development of the Hill Museum.
“We’re in a wonderful position now,” Tolliver said.
Celebrating “Apalachicola Superheroes”
The lease agreement provides that the HCA will be operated “for public, educational and cultural purposes in accordance with the plan of the Florida Communities Trust,” and the NFAACP is committed to bringing this to life, for the entire community.
“Consider the title of the building, the town of Apalachicola Center for History, Culture and the Arts,” Tolliver said. “Does that mean it’s only for white people?” I do not think so. I think that means exactly what was said, and people of African descent are part of Apalachicola’s history, culture, and arts. I think using this space to celebrate all of Apalachicola is the mission of this space.
While the management plan calls for exhibits to be free and open to the public, the Mellon Grant has no funding to pay staff, so the HCA Board of Directors is hard at work developing a structure to create an exhibition manager position, and asks the Tourism Development Council to fund it, in the same way that the TDC pays for staff at the Raney House and other museums.
Tolliver said he anticipates continued use of the building for the January Oyster Cookoff, an annual fundraiser for firefighters, and other such children’s activities that flourished in the pre-pandemic era.
“The building is empty, it hasn’t been used at all since November 2021, and it’s a beautiful building,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense that this building is empty.”
The HCA is undergoing rehabilitation works in the near future, so it will be closed for a while. Once it is in full bloom, Tolliver and his fellow board members plan to expand the uses of the exhibit space to focus on the professional life and community history that shaped the people of ‘Apalachicola.
“I would love to see an exhibit about people making a living off the bay,” he said. “We come to the whole community with something we want to commit to doing for the Hill and it gives us the opportunity to select museum exhibits, to enrich our own life experiences.
“We will listen to the community. I am a social worker; I want to know what interests people,” he said. “We want to find other exhibits that we can bring to Ap[alachicolathatarelow-costorfree[alachicolaquisontpeucoûteusesougratuitesNoustrouveronségalementdesfondsquinouspermettrontd’allerchercherdesexpositionsquiontunesignificationhistoriqueculturelleetartistique[alachicolathatarelow-costorno-costWewillalsofindfundsthatwillpermitustogoafterexhibitsthathavehistoricalculturalandartisticmeaning”
In addition to possible film series, Tolliver said the Mellon grant has allowed the NFAACP to draw on the expertise of a collection of world-class artists and thinkers who will serve the HCA project well while shaping its programming.
He said the council might even consider popular culture exhibits. “It could be something current, using the Apalachicola imagination,” Tolliver said, then quickly added, “we want to celebrate Apalachicola superheroes.”