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L to R: Shirrel Rhoades, Matthew Helmerich, Michael Gieda

Key West Art & Historical Society continues its momentum of educational growth with generous support from The Helmerich Trust.  Current initiatives will grow and new initiatives are being developed to directly benefit the youngest minds of our community.

“Our chief objective is to engage the community and take the museums to the people,” says Executive Director Michael Gieda. “With the support of The Helmerich Trust, we are now better positioned to deliver local history, art and the region’s cultural heritage to the next generation.”

The gift will help support the expansion of Education Department and its outreach to local schools as implemented by Education Specialist, Adele Williams. It will also broaden the efforts to create and deliver web-based educational resources for teachers throughout the Keys and beyond.

“Artistic heritage and tradition just doesn’t exist unless we make sure arts and culture are passed to our children and to their children,” says Matthew Helmerich, who has lived in Key West for 22 years and serves as Executive Director of Tropic Cinema. “It’s happened over centuries— with stories, with pictures – we’re fortunate to have really expressive and engaging ways of sharing arts and culture with new generations.”

The gift enables KWAHS to create a permanent space at the Custom House Museum to host The Society’s established and growing educational initiatives. The newly named Helmerich Research & Learning Center— on the third floor of the Custom House Museum— was formerly a staging area for exhibitions, housed the organization’s library, storage space and was where The Society held board meetings. The transformed space will host the organization’s many educational initiatives, including the Distinguished Speaker Series and the Curator Sessions, while accommodating  schools and other groups. It is complete with the latest audio/visual equipment.

“I’m incredibly fortunate to come from a family who believed in strengthening community,” says Helmerich.  “My mom loves libraries and the arts.  My dad, now deceased, felt very strongly about education and health care.  My family – and lots of other people, too – made the learning center possible.  I’m proud of it.”

The first official use of The Helmerich Research & Learning Center will host Ann Rothstein-Segan for The Society’s Distinguished Speaker Series on Thursday, July 16 from 6-7 pm. Rothstein-Segan will discuss the stories behind her father and the photographs he created during his distinguished 50-year career as presented in the exhibit, Assignment Key West 1938: Arthur Rothstein Photographs. The exhibit opens the following day in the Bryan Gallery, marking the renowned photojournalist’s 100th birthday.

For more information or to contribute your own tax-deductible donation to the organization’s education initiatives, contact Development Director, Christine Nottage at 305-295-6616 ext. 111 or visit

Your museums.  Your community.  It takes an island.