by Christy Rodriguez de Conte
Get ready to “Howl at the Moon” surrounded by moss-draped trees and wild creatures at the Tallahassee Museum’s annual Zoobilee. Costumes are encouraged at the nature-centric museum’s annual fundraiser set for Friday, Oct. 21.
Florida exudes a heated passion for arts, culture and nature. With more than 400 museums statewide, the sunshine state has become a pulsing direct line to the beat of arts and culture.
Florida’s earliest museums date back to the 1930s and ’40s with the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota and the Norton Gallery of art in West Palm Beach.
Yet, it wasn’t until the 1960s, when a rise in public interest around art galleries and museums gained national traction, that Florida’s museums grew to include today’s treasures like Cummer Gallery of Art in Jacksonville and the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg.
With new facilities came new organizations to run them such as the Florida Association of Museums created in the early 1990s. Their goal is to ensure museums are supported to enhance their ability to serve the public’s best interest. Since its earliest years, current Executive Director, Malinda Horton, has sat at the helm surrounded by translucent Tallahassee tree tops.
Anyone who has driven through the canopies of Old Bainbridge Road or witnessed a sunset over Lake Jackson understands the beauty found in Tallahassee’s natural flora and fauna.
Horton acknowledges she has always considered nature a form of art that moves beyond the canvas and into the body.
“Art is so much bigger than that [a sculpture or painting]. It’s such a larger word than what a lot of people think of it as … It’s so many more things than something hanging on the wall and you can’t touch it,” Horton said. “I’ve watched art museums transition so they have hands-on features… Now they have a whole area that’s touch, smell, and feel. All those things that touch your senses and teach you.”
Horton believes that it is this ability to teach museum-goers through immersive experiences that distinguish the Tallahassee Museum, a community staple, in a category of its own.
Be it the sense of serenity experienced through its native plants and animals or the connection to one’s heritage, the Tallahassee Museum holds a special place in Horton’s heart.
Tallahassee’s beloved museum spans over 52 acres to house an array of Florida wildlife including panthers, tigers, and, their most recent expansion, a large bird aviary that houses rescued bald eagles, vultures, and other birds of prey in need of rehabilitation.
Horton recalls the origins of her love for the museum. “My first membership I remember as a kid was getting my membership card from the Tallahassee Museum, it was the Junior Museum then. But as a kid in school, we always did field trips there and my mom was very involved in the museum. And I can just remember having my little membership card and I was so proud to be a part of the museum.”
Horton’s involvement with the museum evolved into a full-fledged career and community education and museum curation.
Over the years she has served Florida and the Tallahassee community through both her professional life as the Executive Director of the Florida Association of Museums and philanthropic commitment to the development of art and culture as a member, and at times chair, of the Tallahassee Museum’s Board of Directors.
Although the museum houses the Phipps Gallery focused primarily on the display of artwork that revolves around natural elements, Horton regards the museum space and exhibits as their own form of immersive art.
She reflects on her own personal relationship with nature and art, “It is just reminding people that art looks like all different things, it’s not just one particular medium. It’s all sorts of things.” She celebrates the museum’s commitment to connecting attendees to Florida heritage and culture through the animals, nature, and history.
And what better way to connect with your community than through a jubilee — or should it be said — Zoobilee? Horton’s tenure as a board member and lifelong volunteer at the Tallahassee Museum has mirrored her 20-year development of one of the Museum’s most successful events, the annual Zoobilee.
This fun-raiser brings dance, food, and friends together to support the Tallahassee Museum’s integral preservation and education of the Tallahassee of yore while keeping Florida of yonder ever-present.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Horton says, “ It’s a good way to remind people of what the Tallahassee Museum is and what we do.”
This year’s theme, Howl at the Moon, encourages a wild night under the stars featuring live music from Tallahassee legends, Upside Avenue, as well as, delicious food from some of Tallahassee’s finest restaurants topped off with an open bar. Costumes are encouraged when attending this event.
Learn more about the Tallahassee Museum.
Read the article on the Tallahassee Democrat.