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50 YEARS OF STATE OWNERSHIP // Two other Florida art museums celebrate facility expansions

On the same weekend that the Ringling marks 50 years of state ownership, two of the state's other major art museums open newly expanded facilities.

The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach has more than doubled its size from 33,000 to 77,000 square feet, including 34,130 square feet of exhibition space. A members-only preview begins today; public opening is Monday.

The Norton's offerings include Ralph and Elizabeth Norton's choice collection of European and American 19th and 20th century works, including 19th-century landscapes, American Impressionism, the Ashcan School, Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. Bay area art lovers sampled the Norton in 1995 when 90 works traveled to the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, a trip made possible by the Norton's renovation.

The Appleton Museum in Ocala dedicates the Edith-Marie Appleton Wing on Monday, bringing its overall space to 65,000 square feet and exhibition space to 35,500 square feet. The museum is home to the 6,000-object collection of Arthur I. Appleton, a Chicago industrialist and inventor who owns a horse farm in Ocala.

Like the Ringlings, the Nortons and Appletons built the museums to house their collection and make it available to the public. Other collectors who have established museums in Florida during their lifetime include Eleanor and A. Reynolds Morse in St. Petersburg (Salvador Dali Museum) and Jeanette and Hugh McKean in Winter Park (Charles Hosmer Morse Museum, specializing in works by Louis C. Tiffany).

Smaller Florida museums also have enjoyed recent expansion, thanks in part of Florida's government support of its museums and cultural institutions, amounting to about $50-million a year according to Ruth Meyers, coordinator of the Florida Art Museum Directors Association.

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