Description & History
A Community Tradition for over 70 Years
Abington Art Center originated as the Old York Road Art Guild. The Guild was founded in 1939 by a group of visionary women who believed in the “benefit of cultural enrichment for individual and community life to be derived from creative artistic expression.” In 1965, the Guild’s educational programs were incorporated as a separate non-profit under the name “Abington Art Center.” Several years later, on Christmas Day 1969, respected rare book and print collector, Lessing J. Rosenwald and his wife Edith, donated their elegant estate, Alverthorpe Manor to the Township of Abington as a cultural and recreational gathering place for the community. Guild members had supported acceptance of the gift, which offered the opportunity to expand their program of studio art instruction and exhibitions at the Manor.
Soon after moving to Alverthorpe Manor, the organization made the transition to a professionally managed organization with its first paid director and the Guild was disbanded. In 1981, when the Rosenwald Collection was moved to the Library of Congress and National Gallery in Washington, D. C., the Art Center was able to expand into the former gallery wing of the Manor, doubling its instruction space and enrollment. Since then, the Art Center has continued to grow, establishing a nationally recognized Sculpture Garden in 1990, strengthening its exhibition programs and resources, and enlarging its community outreach efforts. In 1996, the Art Center acquired more space within the building and began a 5 year renovation project designed to complete the transformation of Alverthorpe Manor from a private residence to a public place.
In 2003, AAC engaged Abington Township in an effort to create a master plan that would guide future development of the Alverthorpe Manor property. The plan, developed by Wallace Roberts & Todd outlined a unique opportunity, unlike any other in the region to build a 27-acre ‘cultural campus’ in a suburban community with AAC and our Sculpture Park at its core. In 2005, the Center was the recipient of a $500,000 pledge of a matching grant from the State of Pennsylvania, recognizing the project’s potential to assist with the economic development goals of our surrounding municipalities. The first phase of development completed in 2011 focused on establishing the basic parameters of the park’s organization and design. It incorporates the most visible physical changes recommended by the master plan, in order to quickly engage the public in the site’s use and encourage community participation in future enhancements.