Provincetown Art Association and Museum

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Provincetown Art Association and Museum
Aa museum entrance.jpg
PAAM entrance
LocationProvincetown, Massachusetts
Coordinates42°03′23″N 70°10′46″W / 42.0564°N 70.1794°W / 42.0564; -70.1794Coordinates: 42°03′23″N 70°10′46″W / 42.0564°N 70.1794°W / 42.0564; -70.1794
TypeArt Museum

The Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) is located at 460 Commercial Street in Provincetown, Massachusetts. It is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and is the most attended art museum on Cape Cod. The museum's permanent collection includes over 2,500 objects, a number which continues to grow through donations and new acquisitions. PAAM mounts approximately forty exhibitions each year, serving as a significant cultural and educational resource for the Provincetown and Cape Cod communities.[1]

Mission statement[edit]

The objects and purposes of this association shall be to promote and cultivate the practice and appreciation of all branches of the fine arts, to assemble and maintain in the town of Provincetown and environs a collection of works of art of merit, to hold exhibitions, and by forums, concerts and similar activities to promote education of the public in the arts and social intercourse between artists and laymen. To these ends it shall operate strictly within its charter as a nonprofit, educational, artistic and cultural organization.

Constitution and By-laws Provincetown Art Association and Museum, 1921[2]



Charles Hawthorne teaches a plein air class

Prominent artists Charles Hawthorne, Oscar Gieberich, William Halsall, Gerrit Beneker, E. Ambrose Webster and several local business men and women established the Provincetown Art Association in 1914. The organizing artists donated works and mounted two juried exhibitions in the summer of 1915, beginning a tradition of collecting and exhibiting the work of local artists. By this time, Provincetown had become a refuge of artists and expatriates returned from war-torn Europe. The town was firmly established as "The Biggest Art Colony in the World" (Boston Globe, 8/8/16). PAAM strengthened its role as the anchor of this art colony through the purchase of its present building in 1919. John "Wichita Bill" Noble served as the Association's first director. His son, John A. Noble, also became a prominent artist.

Twentieth Century[edit]

PAAM's artist founders had come out of the Impressionist tradition and thus did not readily accept the new Modernist movement. Faced with aesthetic differences among its artist membership, however, the organization worked to maintain a balance in the work it exhibited. True to its mission, PAAM mounted separate "Modern" and "Regular" summer exhibitions between 1927 and 1937. Partial conciliation was reached in 1937 when concurrent exhibitions were hung in the same gallery on opposite walls.

The Depression years of the '30s and the war years of the early '40s were difficult times for the town and the Association. Although annual shows were canceled, volunteers managed to maintain a reduced schedule. By 1947, the regular schedule of two summer exhibitions had been reestablished. The rise of Abstract Expressionism—intensified by the location of Hans Hofmann's summer school here—again riffled the deep divisions within the arts community during the '50s.

When PAAM celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1964 with a retrospective show of its major artists, the organization focused on gaining national attention for Provincetown's considerable contribution to American art. The effect was a boon for the organization. Activities increased, new galleries were added, the exhibition schedule expanded, a storage vault was built to house the expanding collection, and once again PAAM showed itself as the center of the local art world.

As PAAM grew throughout the next three decades, the organizational structure of the museum continued to include strong representation from both the artist and lay communities. PAAM'S dual purpose of the organization—to be a collecting museum and a professional artists' association—has been consistently supported over the course of its history. The collection has been the basis for many exhibitions and has served scholars, researchers and other museums. Including close to 2,500 works from artists who have lived or worked on the outer Cape, the collection is a burgeoning historical record of the art colony.

PAAM during its 2005/6 renovation


PAAM continues to acquire both historical and contemporary works that span a number of genres and styles to increase the vitality of its collection. The artists' association has also been a vital source of contemporary exhibitions; it also enables PAAM to employ the talents of working artists with exceptional ability as instructors of classes, workshops, lectures and demonstrations.

PAAM's recent renovation and expansion has improved its facilities to reflect its mission. The contemporary wing enables artist members to show their work in contemporary galleries beside our significant American art collection and other world-class exhibitions. The galleries also offer accommodating venues for chamber music, jazz, dance and spoken word performances. The new studio classrooms offer appropriate spaces for children and youth education programs, as well as for adult courses in the Lillian Orlowsky/William Freed Museum School at PAAM.[3]

AAM Accreditation[edit]

In 2009 PAAM received the honor of accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums. Accreditation allows PAAM more grants opportunities, possibilities to partner with more museums, as well as establishing it as a professional and established institution. Out of the estimated 17,500 museums in the US, only 775 are accredited.


Select art historical events in Provincetown over the past 100 years

Date Event
1899 Charles Hawthorne establishes the Cape Cod School of Art
1900 E. Ambrose Webster establishes the Summer School of Painting
1914 Provincetown Art Association established on August 22
Influx of artists and writers from New York and Paris
1915 The Provincetown Art Association has its first exhibition at Town Hall
The Provincetown Print Makers formed, inspired by B.J.O. Nordfeldt
1916 George Elmer Browne forms the West End School
The Modern School of Art is formed by B.J.O. Nordfeldt, William and Marguerite Zorach, Frederick Burt, and M. Musselman Car
The Beachcombers, a men's club of artists and writers, established
1921 7th Annual Exhibition opens at the Provincetown Art Association – first exhibition at its current location, 460 Commercial. Association constitution and bylaws created
1927 The First Modernist Exhibition opens as a result of a petition drawn up by Ross Moffett, Tod Lindenmuth, and thirty other artists in 1926
1933 Hans Hofmann School of Fine Art established – located on Miller Hill in the rented studio formerly occupied by Charles Hawthorne's Cape Cod School of Art
1937 The first combined exhibition of modernists and traditionalists is held at the Provincetown Art Association
1946 Hans and Miz Hofmann purchase the Waugh studio on Commercial Street at Nickerson Street; Hofmann continues teaching
1949 Forum 49 exhibition opens at Gallery 200
1950s Abstract Expressionism flourishes
1959 Galleries and Artists’ Cooperatives reach a peak on Commercial Street
1968 The Fine Arts Work Center is established
1970 The Provincetown Art Association changes its name to the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, recognizing its mission as a repository of artworks, objects, and archives relevant to the history of art in Provincetown
1978 The Lower Cape Arts and Humanities is formed
1979 The First Annual Fall Arts Festival is launched
1982 The Museum School at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum is established
1985 Provincetown Arts Magazine is established
1999 Provincetown celebrates its 100th anniversary as an Art Colony
2006 Renovation and expansion of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum completed by the architectural firm of Machado and Silvetti Associates



PAAM's Hans Hofmann gallery
The new wing at PAAM

The Provincetown Art Association and Museum has five ground-floor galleries with rotating exhibitions on view throughout the year. Three sculpture gardens surround the building. The Museum School facilities include second-floor drawing, painting, and print studios. The entire building is equipped with an all-season climate control system.

A recent renovation and expansion of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum has dramatically improved the museum's ability to store and display art. In 2006, the square footage of the facilities was increased from 11,000 to 19,500 square feet (1,810 m2).

PAAM's physical plant has been awarded a Silver LEED rating by the United States Green Building Council to recognize PAAM's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The rating quantifies PAAM's environmental performance, and assures the public that PAAM's facility is designed and operated to help save energy and natural resources.[5]

The renovation project, designed by Machado and Silvetti Associates, has also received a 2006 American Institute of Architects Merit Award for Design Excellence, and recognition within the AIA's 2007 Committee on the Environment (COTE). The building is wood-frame construction over a concrete basement. The historical portion of the Museum, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is clad with white cedar shingles; the new portion of the Museum is clad with custom Spanish cedar shingles and louvers.[6]


PAAM's permanent collection features artists who have lived and worked on the Outer Cape. Some artists represented in the collection include Varujan Boghosian, Paul Bowen, George Elmer Browne, Oliver Chaffee, Carmen Cicero, Ciro Cozzi, Charles Henry Demuth, Edwin Dickinson, Chaim Gross, Charles Webster Hawthorne, Robert Henry, Henry Hensche, Hans Hofmann, Erik Koch, Franz Kline, Karl Knaths, Blanche Lazzell, William Littlefield, Peter Macara, Ross Moffett, Robert Motherwell, Man Ray, John Singer Sargent, Jack Tworkov, Andy Warhol, E. Ambrose Webster, Mike Wright, and James R. Zimmerman. For a complete inventory list of the collection, please visit the PAAM collection webpage.

Educational Programming[edit]

Summer 2009 intern Sarah Toscano with participants in Children's Art Adventures

The Lillian Orlowsky/William Freed Museum School offers a range of classes and programs throughout the year. Over seventy summer studio courses are offered from May through September, including courses in drawing, printmaking, mixed media, plein air painting classes with prominent local artists, and computer classes. Life drawing sessions are offered twice a week year-round, and the Museum School holds open print studio hours during the winter. Fall, winter, and spring courses include week-long master classes, multi-week workshops, and semester-long offerings. This exciting program exemplifies PAAM's commitment to year-round educational opportunities for absolute beginners, established artists, and everyone in between.

In addition to adult courses, the Museum School also coordinates classes for children and teens. Art Reach, a 28-week after-school program created in conjunction with Provincetown High School, runs from October through May. PAAM also facilitates student curating sessions and offers children's art workshops in the summer.

Studio workshops are supplemented by free educational lectures. The Fredi Schiff Levin Lecture Series runs from June through September, with additional lectures taking place periodically as well. Guest lecturers include artists, authors, and art historians who are brought in to discuss the history of the Provincetown Art Colony as well as its contemporary art scene.[7]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ PAAM Style Guide for Consistent Organizational Positioning.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Building on a Legacy: The Tides of Change. Provincetown: Provincetown Art Association and Museum, 2003.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-07-05. Retrieved 2009-08-11.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-02-05. Retrieved 2009-08-11.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Provincetown Art Association and Museum Fall Newsletter. 2009.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Ahrens, Nyla. Provincetown: The Art Colony, A Brief History and Guide. Provincetown: Provincetown Art Association and Museum, 2000.
  • Bridges, Robert and Kristina Olson. Blanche Lazzell: The Hofmann Drawings. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2004.
  • Moffett, Ross. Art In Narrow Streets: The First Thirty-Three Years of the Provincetown Art Association 1914-1947. Provincetown: Cape Cod Pilgrim Memorial Association, 1989.