About our neighborhood in Wilton Manors, Florida
Wilton Manors is surrounded by the south fork of the Middle River, making it an island city. Located north of Fort Lauderdale and with a population of about 12,500, it has a small town feel that makes it appealing to visitors.
Art Gallery 21 grew out of the shared vision of three individuals looking for a place to hang art. They hoped to one day have a neighborhood art gallery where everyone could experience art. In July 2012 with the discovery of an underused public building and a partnership with the City of Wilton Manors, Art Gallery 21 opened its first art exhibit in the former Woman’s Club of Wilton Manors and welcomed 100+ friends and neighbors for an extraordinary evening filled with community spirit.
How to make a Woman’s Club into an Art Gallery
It was really a lucky accident for Art Gallery 21 that the Woman’s Club of Wilton Manors was built adjacent to Hagen Park and City Hall during the mid-century era. The area around the Woman’s Club, Hagen Park, has changed over the years from a little neighborhood park with a playground and a couple of tennis courts to the state of the art site we have today. City Hall faces Wilton Drive and there’s ample parking for the public (except on Saturday nights). Over the years that these changes to public land were taking place, Wilton Drive, the designated Art & Entertainment District, was beginning to change, too. Gone was the Junior League Thrift Store, the office supply and hair salon, and the Wings ‘n Things, and in their places, restaurants, bars and specialty shops, bringing a new vibe and new people. It’s not uncommon to hear about someone who came here to visit and loved the “small town” feel so much that they came back to live here.
That “small town” feel is one of the things that makes Art Gallery 21 so special. The Woman’s Club was built in 1956 on land donated by Alvar Hagen, a local community activist. It’s not a large building, with maximum occupancy set at 75. (And, that’s pushing it!) Hagen’s wife, Virginia, was one of the first club presidents, and the couple was known for their community spirit. Over the years, the Woman’s Club used their social capital to raise money for the support of local charities and they were a part of the fabric of community life. They were, in essence, what gave us that “small town” feel.
All good things must come to an end, they say, and, so, the Woman’s Club retired their chapter in January of 2011. The property was deeded over to the City because they knew the City could take care of the building. Older buildings come with their own set of problems, and preserving the historic integrity of the Woman’s Club presents challenges that City staff have addressed quite well.
It was the empty, unused building, in need of a little paint and a lot of TLC, that we discovered early one Saturday morning in November 2011 that lead us to see what it could be … Art Gallery 21.
Art Gallery 21, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization registered with the State of Florida and is working in partnership with the Wilton Manors Leisure Services Department to bring more art to the Art & Entertainment District. To donate, click here. If you’re interested in volunteering or joining our mailing list, please send a message to email@example.com.
Art Gallery 21
600 NE 21 Court
Wilton Manors, FL 33305
The Historic Woman’s Club of Wilton Manors
Constance Ruppender, President/Co-Founder
Interested in renting the Woman’s Club for an event?