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History

In 1995, sixty-six artists and patrons of the arts established Lake Eustis Center of the Arts in an 1881 store front on Bay Street in the heart of historic downtown Eustis. Since Lake County was home to several art centers, museum founders decided to rename the institution the Lake Eustis Museum of Art (LEMA), pledged to exhibit fine art. The first exhibitor, Mollie Manaulkin, donated 18 paintings of Australian Aborigines as a cornerstone for the Permanent Collection.

Soon LEMA offered exhibitions, art events, children's art programs, adult field trips to other museums and an annual outdoor art festival, discontinued in winter 2008. Membership grew along with the roster of dedicated volunteers. The need for more space brought a 2004 relocation to a more visible building, across the street from Eustis City Hall. In January 2009, the museum started asking adult non-members to make a $5 donation to visit the gallery and opening receptions. The museum, with membership in the American and Florida Associations of Museums became a member of the North American Reciprocal Museum Program. Since, LEMA has expanded outreach to the greater Central Florida art community.

2009 and 2010 saw dramatic development of a key element in LEMA's mission, the Permanent Collection, with the addition of fine art works by many of the exhibitors. LEMA was nominated for a 2009 United Arts of Central Florida Arts+ Award for Community Engagement. Among the most significant, groundbreaking exhibits was WACKO: LIBERAL ARTS & AUTISM SPECTRUM PROJECT an exhibit of works by high functioning autistic youngsters for UA's ArtsFest 2009/10. Also, LEMA established the Bonnie Gillespie Reference Library, with a collection of art reference books. Additionally, the FRIENDS Literary Guild selects, reads and then reviews art-related fiction and non-fiction books during a monthly meeting.

2012 saw a move to LEMA's current location in Ferran Park, on Lake Eustis. Programs and exhibitions have grown considerably. In 2016 LEMA was awarded the Lake County Chamber Coalition's Cultural Award.