The mission of Main Line Art Center is to inspire and engage people of all ages, abilities, and economic means in visual art through education, exhibitions, and experiences.
About Main Line Art CenterContemporary | Current | Creative | Community
Main Line Art Center is our community’s home to discover, create, and experience visual art. A frequent recipient of Best of Awards for its beautiful galleries and high-quality art instruction, the Art Center’s visual art classes and contemporary and innovative exhibitions stimulate creativity, conversation, and joy. The mission of Main Line Art Center is to inspire and engage people of all ages, abilities, and economic means in visual art through education, exhibitions, and experiences.
Throughout the year, Main Line Art Center presents forward-thinking, contemporary art exhibitions in our galleries that celebrate our community of artists and feature emerging and established artists whose work serves as a source of inspiration and intellectual dialogue. Committed to increasing the visibility and accessibility of art, the Art Center also presents exhibitions and events in the community, including Panorama: Image-Based Art in the 21st Century, an annual celebration of the photographic image and digital media which last year featured 60+ events over the course of two months presented by the Art Center and its 35+ Creative Partners.
Main Line Art Center’s educational offerings for all ages, abilities, and economic means span from traditional to contemporary, and are all held to the highest level of excellence. In 2015, Main Line Art Center received the Commitment to Cultural Access Award from Art-Reach for the Center’s Accessible Art Programs for children and adults with disabilities, now in their 52nd year. Additionally, the Art Center grants over $12,000 in need-based scholarships annually.
Last year we inspired 21,000 people at Main Line Art Center and touched the lives of over 78,000 through programs in the community. View our Annual Reports for more about our impact on the community.
The Bryn Mawr Art Center, as it was known then, was founded by a group of artists on October 26, 1937 on Polo Road in Haverford, just around the corner from our current location. The Center offered oil and watercolor painting, sculpture, music, creative writing, dance, and flower arranging, and in 1960 added ceramics to the course roster.
A parallel organization, the Suburban Center of Arts, began offering classes and lectures in the Penn Wynne School in 1954. Classes included painting, sculpture, music (guitar and recorder), dance (folk, modern, and ballet), and drama. It held film screenings for the community and a spring arts festival. The Suburban Center of Arts helped pioneer outreach programs, introducing sculpture classes for the blind in 1960.
Before long the two organizations saw the benefits of merging into one. In 1963 they became the Main Line Center of the Arts, with a combined membership of 700 families. In 1993, the Center’s name was changed to Main Line Art Center.
Executive Directors of Main Line Art Center
Henry W. Peacock · 1963–1968
Eleanor Daitzman · 1968–1986
V. Susan Fisher · 1987–1988
Judy Herman · 1988–2012
Amie Potsic · 2012-Present
A few decades before the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad transformed Haverford into a desirable Philadelphia suburb, a tavern stood on Lancaster Avenue (site of the Wilkie Lexus dealership). The Kelly family, Irish immigrants who arrived in 1806, occupied and operated the “Buck Inn” by 1850. The family’s daughter, Ann Margaret, married Dr. William J. Martin. The couple wanted their own home. In 1868 they built the Italianate three-story dwelling known as the “White House” for its white stucco façade.
The house, which sat on 50 acres behind the Buck Inn, remained in Martin’s family for four generations. It had a carriage house, a one-story kitchen wing in the rear, a “cottage house” between the house and Buck Inn, stables, and a hot house. Various people, including the Hires family of Hires Root Beer, owned and subdivided parts of the Martin property before the Bryn Mawr Art Center purchased it in 1948.
The Main Line Center of the Arts sold part of the property, including the carriage house, in the 1980s. This left the existing 1.479 acres. The Art Center underwent cosmetic renovations in 1988. Ten years later in 1998, a capital campaign funded the gallery addition (increasing exhibition space by 50 percent), refurbishment of the existing galleries and classrooms, and reconstruction of the front porch. This renovation also made the building accessible to audiences with disabilities. In 2013, Main Line Art Center renovated and expanded the facilities to include new jewelry and painting studios, natural light in our ceramics department, a new front entrance to the galleries, and numerous improvements throughout the building. In 2014, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Center’s Accessible Art Programs for children and adults with disabilities, the Center enhanced its campus by planting a sensory garden.