Marietta Lee on Opening Day, October 2010

 From Baby Boomers to Grandparents to Everyone

How It All Started

     Marietta Lee, Founder, Curator and President of Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy, Inc. began her education in Kentucky with an Associate of Science in Nursing and Emergency Medical Care, followed many years later, by a Master of Science in nursing from the University of South Florida. She loved helping people and the excitement of Emergency Room nursing as well as being an RN/EMT/Paramedic.  One dark night, while volunteering for the Jessamine County Rescue Squad in Kentucky, she and her partner were called to the scene of a small airplane crash. All 5 people were dead. There was no one living to assist. It changed her life forever. The next day, as they scratched out shadows and images of the plane crash, she soon felt her spirits lift.  At age 32, she found a whole new direction in life through the process of making art.

     She earned a Bachelor of Art from Eastern Kentucky University in 1981, moved to Florida in 1984, and earned a Bachelor of Fine Art from Ringling College of Art & Design in 1991. As a student, she visited many renown art museums and soon realized that women's artwork and humorous art were under represented. It just didn't seem fair. "If I could change one thing in my lifetime, this would be it!"  The seeds of change were planted.

     She loved going to outdoor art shows and discovered an enormous variety of American artists with fresh, colorful, creative and upbeat ideas. There was a sense of freedom and pride in their work.  They were true small business entrepreneurs. An artist herself, Ms. Lee, thought it would be fun someday to bring all these people together to display their work for everyone to see.


     Family tragedy struck in 1994 when her father had a stroke. She spent the next 10 years involved with her parent's medical care. During this emotionally difficult time, she realized how important it was to get a short respite of 1 or 2 hours, painting, looking at plants, talking with friends, and visiting museums to continue this care. It was also apparent that many of her Baby Boomer friends were tackling these same issues. We all have parents.  By 2004, both Mom and Dad passed.
       In 2006, Marietta Lee founded the Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy, Inc. named in honor of her Mother (Marietta also known as Etta), Grandmother (Marietta also known as Grams), and Niece (Marietta). It began as a non profit, private, operating foundation in Connecticut. Museum Checkbook in hand, she immediately began collecting museum artwork.  However, it was still difficult to find a location for the museum in her old hometown of Guilford, Connecticut.  After 3 failed land contracts in Connecticut, she turned her attention back to Sarasota where she still maintained a residence and knew so well of its diverse cultural appeal and reputation as an art friendly community.
     Within a short time, in 2008, she purchased the present Museum site in Sarasota, Florida. In 2009, she returned to Florida as a full time resident and founded the (Florida) Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy, Inc., transferred all museum assets from the Connecticut organization to the Florida organization, and terminated the Connecticut organization. She then began work on a huge remodel of the Sarasota Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy site including the wonderful gardens. It was time to create a space of happiness, joy and peace! The dream came true when the museum officially opened its doors October, 2010 at 2121 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Florida.
     Ms. Lee passionately shares, "It became clear when we started hanging the first exhibit, that this eclectic collection of paintings, sculpture, and mixed media demonstrated that Art can be a positive force in our lives, inclusive rather than exclusive. I think that's why its so appealing to people of all ages. What is truly unique about this museum is that about half of the artists are women, half are men and most of the artists are alive!"
     When she began this museum, she thought her target audience was Baby Boomers. But it quickly became apparent that this was a great place for grandparents and parents to teach their children about museums.  Then, all ages came to enjoy the art. It became a place to enrich our lives with all the colors and sensations of art.  
  "Initially, I wanted to create a friendly environment where people, especially adults, could relax and forget their problems even if only for a brief moment, to slow down, smell the roses, and enjoy the present."  It has become a Smiley Place.

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