Victor Vasarely, Untitled (Sphere), n.d., Serigraph (184/250), Polk Museum of Art Permanent Collection 2001.19.3, Gift of William and Norma Roth

A Sum of Its Parts

July 13, 2016 – September 17, 2016

Jenkins Gallery and Gallery II

This year marks Polk Museum of Art’s 50th anniversary! When founded in 1966, the Polk Public Museum, as it was called, owned a broadly diverse permanent collection that included everything from petrified dinosaur teeth to homemade dolls. The vision for the permanent collection shifted in the early 1980s when the museum revised its mission to become exclusively an art museum. As it became the Polk Museum of Art, its collecting focus accordingly narrowed to only include works of fine art. Currently, the museum’s permanent collection includes approximately 2,300 art objects ranging from prehistoric artifacts to 21st century digital prints. A Sum of Its Parts will be a comprehensive chronology of the collection that will also chronicle the museum’s evolution alongside its collecting interests.

View the Exhibition Guide


Exhibitions Partner:

Exhibition Sponsors:

Annual Exhibition Fund Donors:

Dorothy Chao Jenkins
CNP · Clark/Nikdel/Powell
Margaret M. Decker Foundation
Dr. Alan & Linda Rich Fund
within the Give Well Community Foundation
Share Foundation

Barbara Morgan, Martha Graham, Letter to the World, 1940/1984, Gelatin silverprint, Purchased by the Art Resource Trust, Polk Museum of Art Permanent Collection 2005.1.1 © Barbara Morgan, The Barbara Morgan Archive.

Unmanned: Women Artists from the Permanent Collection

April 30, 2016 - October 9, 2016

Perkins Gallery

Donna Petcoff Watson, Untitled, Acrylic on canvas, Courtesy of the Donna Petcoff Watson Gallery and Platform Art Forum for Creativity.

The Overcoming: Works by Donna Petcoff Watson

April 30, 2016 - August 27, 2016

Murray & Ledger Galleries

Donna Petcoff Watson was born in Bulgaria just before the onset of World War II. From the very beginning, her life was met with all of the cultural, social and political discord of wartime. She was separated from her father for the first nine years of her life while her family feared the constant barrage of Nazi soldiers through her village. Later in life, other tragedies would follow: the untimely deaths of her mother, father and daughter and her battle to survive both breast and lung cancer.

Yet, Watson is the determined optimist, turning a tumultuous childhood and life’s later tragedies into inspirations for her creative spirit. Her paintings are rooted in the belief that art can resolve and preserve the spirit. These paintings are not merely abstract compositions; her works are exercises in meditation and visual evidence of Watson’s steps toward coping and eventually overcoming all aspects of life. 

Watson initially trained as a painter at the University of Toledo. She began by studying various master artists from art history. She experimented with watercolor, oil and mixed media until she discovered the appropriate creative formula to address the setbacks in her life. Her painting style is a balanced mix of Impressionism and post-World War II American abstraction; although her quick brushwork and color palette recount techniques utilized by such Impressionists a Claude Monet, her interests in formalism and psycho-analysis allude to such early American abstractionists as Mark Rothko. Although parts of the Bulgarian countryside can be recognized in some of her paintings, it is intended to represent Watson’s childhood memories and the natural environment that fostered her during those early years of calamity.

Monkey Business: Ruben Ubiera at Polk Museum of Art

Ruben Ubiera, Monkey Business, Painted mural, 16' x 24'.

For the first time in its 50 year history, the Polk Museum of Art partnered with an accomplished Florida artist to produce an on-site, large-scale interior mural. Florida artist Ruben Ubiera designed and created a unique mural measuring 16’ x 24’ directly onto one of the Museum’s most prominent walls. The Museum will  remain on view through the end of the year. This is the Museum's first on-site mural project and Ubiera's first major museum commission. 

About the Artist

Given its history of support for accomplished Florida artists, the Polk Museum of Art has chosen to work with Miami artist Ruben Ubiera. A native of the Dominican Republic, Ubiera moved with his family to the Bronx, NY, where he was influenced by the city’s gritty street graffiti. Now working in Miami’s Wynwood Art District, Ubiera contributes to the area’s recent nomination as a capital for sophisticated public street art. Inspired by man’s relationship with the urban environment, Ubiera combines concept and technique with narrative and an old-school essence of graffiti. This new style of street art is often referred to as Postgraffism, or according to Ubiera “urban-pop.” His murals embody a new spirit of urban aesthetic, distanced from the old perceptions of unrefined graffiti. He considers himself one of the “neo-illustrators and designers who are experimenting with new media, but have been influenced by graffiti . . .” He has certainly distinguished himself as belonging to a new generation of street artists. You can learn more about Ruben Ubiera at his website,

Special thanks to the community of supporters who made this project possible through donations to the Museum's Kickstarter campaign.

Learning to Be Me:  K- 2nd Grade Elementary Students Exhibition

May 28 – August 14, 2016

Student Gallery

This exhibition highlights the artwork of Polk County’s elementary school students. For more information about our Student Gallery, visit our Student Gallery page.


Sponsored by: MIDFLORIDA Credit Union and Publix Super Markets Charities

Continuing Exhibitions

Remojadas Culture, Seated Male Figure, 500-700 CE, Ceramic, Polk Museum of Art Permanent Collection 1983.1.6, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. David Taxdal.

(Temporarily Closed through late September)

Ancient Art of the Americas

David and Lucia Taxdal Pre-Columbian Gallery

Ancient Art of the Americas, a refocused installation of the Museum’s collection of Pre-Columbian artworks which was completed in December 2000, and updated with recent acquisitions in March 2003, features a comprehensive overview of artifacts from Mexico, Central America, Colombia and Peru. The gallery is divided into two themed rooms. Warriors, Priests, and Rituals presents effigies related to those three categories, including bound prisoners, warriors ready for battle, and priest figures. The second room is arranged geographically, with artifacts grouped according to the current name of the country in which they were found. This arrangement allows visitors to see how cultures that were geographically close influenced each other. This room also contains an archaeology display which explains how scientists uncover and interpret artifacts like those in the gallery.


Sculpture Court

Contemporary works by  by James Bassham, Jane Jaskevich, Fonchen Lord, Carol Brown and Michael Mick are featured in the Museum's permanent outdoor exhibition space.

Material World: A Global Family Portrait

Marks Gallery

The Material World: A Global Family Portrait exhibition is the result of American photojournalist Peter Menzel’s project to help viewers grasp a sense of cross-culture realities and to celebrate our common humanity. Sixteen of the world’s foremost photographers traveled around the world, visiting thirty different countries to live for a week with families that are statistically average for that nation. At the end of each visit, the photographer and subjects collaborated on the Big Picture, a remarkable portrait of the family outside of its home, surrounded by all of its possessions. This exhibition is an attempt to capture through photos and statistics, both the common humanity of the peoples inhabiting our Earth and the great differences in material goods and circumstances that make rich and poor societies.

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

Marks Gallery

For the first time in history, more people are overfed than underfed. And while some people still have barely enough to eat, others overeat to the point of illness. To find out how mealtime is changing in real homes, authors Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio visited families around the world to observe and photograph what they eat during the course of one week. During their project, they sat down to eat with twenty-five families in twenty-one countries.

As Peter and Faith ate and talked with families, they learned firsthand about food consumption around the world and its corresponding causes and effects. The resulting family portraits, which are displayed in this exhibition, offer a glimpse into the cultural similarities and differences served on dinner plates around the globe.

This show joins Material World: A Global Family Portrait in the Marks Gallery to stimulate further thought and discussion about cultural commonalities and differences.