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Arthur Milam: ‘Jacksonville is a better place because of him’

August 25, 2016 // by Denise M. Reagan

Arthur Milam's legacy of generosity is palpable when you walk through the doors of MOCA Jacksonville.

MOCA might not have moved to its downtown location if Milam hadn't identified the historic Western Union Telegraph building across from Hemming Park and crafted a partnership with the city of Jacksonville to purchase the building.

Arthur and Teresa Milam at MOCA b
Arthur and Teresa Milam attend the 2005 Pillars of the Arts celebration in their honor in 2005.

Milam died this week, but he leaves behind a rich history of philanthropy and service to MOCA and many other organizations.

He was a key member of MOCA's Board of Trustees from 1998 to 2009, serving as chair for the first eight of those years. After steering the Museum through five years of operation without a permanent facility, he led the effort to move downtown and spearheaded the capital campaign to raise $5 million for the building's restoration. He continued to lead MOCA through its reopening as the largest contemporary art museum in Florida. Attendance soared to more than 40,000 during the first year and has continued increase annually.

“His service and vision has sustained the Museum through its many phases,” said Charles Gilman III, current chair of the Board of Trustees. “Arthur encouraged me to become more involved with MOCA when I moved here, and as usual, his advice was prescient. I will remember Arthur as a man of generous spirit and strong character. We have lost a true friend.”

“It wouldn't have been possible without Arthur,” Preston Haskell told The Florida Times-Union. Haskell succeeded Milam as chair in 2006. “He was a wonderful colleague to me. Extraordinarily smart and well educated, a prince of a person in terms of personality.”

Since 1998, Milam and his wife, Teresa, gave more than $800,000 to MOCA Jacksonville, including $100,000 in 2015 as part of a promised $500,000 over five years to the Museum's endowment. The couple also donated a 1988 painting by James Bohary titled Reef to the Permanent Collection in memory of Steve Champion and his son, Terence Milam, who died in a car accident in 2004.

Teresa and Arthur Milam Lobby d
Ethan Murrow's Project Atrium wall drawing Plethora can be seen from the Teresa and Arthur Milam Lobby. Image courtesy of Denise M. Reagan.

In 2005, the Board voted unanimously to name MOCA's lobby the Teresa and Arthur Milam Lobby. The space hosts exhibition previews, galas, weddings, and myriad community events.

Milam was one of forty people honored by The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville at this year's fundraiser called "Boundless: 40 Years, 40 Icons.” MOCA honored the Milams during its first Pillars of the Arts celebration in 2005.

“The city is thriving. It's quite amazing for those who know the art world that move in,” Milam told the Jacksonville Daily Record at the time. “They are impressed by what they see. The Museum is a great contributor to the art scene and the city. Membership is up, donations are up. It's a very exciting business to be in.”

“Arthur Milam has demonstrated tireless devotion and leadership to MOCA and other community institutions,” Deborah Broder wrote to the Cultural Council as MOCA's director in 2010. “His generosity and vision, his strategic guidance, and his steadfastness has made a lasting impression on our community.”

Milam founded the law firm Milam Howard Nicandri Dees & Gillam. He recruited his original law partner, G. Alan Howard, to serve on MOCA Jacksonville's Board.

“Arthur Milam was a true gentleman, a fine lawyer, and a tremendous supporter of the arts in Jacksonville,” Howard said. “He served as chairman of the Board of Trustees of MOCA Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. He led the campaign to bring MOCA downtown. He persuaded then-Mayor John Delaney to join forces in procuring a grant to acquire the former Western Union building as a new permanent home for the Museum. He then worked with Preston Haskell to raise the capital funds necessary for the building's renovation. It can truly be said that MOCA Jacksonville would not be here today if not for the efforts of Arthur Milam. Everyone who had the pleasure to know Arthur was better for it. And Jacksonville is a better place because of him.”

James Bohary Reef c
James Bohary, Reef, 1988. Oil on canvas, 69.5 x 79.5 inches. Gift of Teresa and Arthur Milam in memory of Steve Champion and Terence Milam.

"I recall seeking Arthur's counsel regarding a business decision some years ago,” Gilman said. “He told me that I could win the legal case I was proposing and gain financially, but it would likely harm, in an unintentional way, some of those involved. He really impressed me with his thoughtfulness. It was the first and last time a lawyer has ever advised me to stop and think about the ethics of the matter. He was very good at doing the right thing."

In addition to his work with MOCA, Milam served as a trustee for the Jacksonville Symphony from 1976 to 1984, becoming the chair in 1984. He also served on the boards of numerous social service organizations, such as Boys Club of Jacksonville, March of Dimes, and Salvation Army, 

Earlier this month, the Milams' distinctive Ponte Vedra Beach home was one of six Florida properties added to the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places. Familiar to anyone who's driven between St. Augustine and Jacksonville on A1A, the Arthur Milam House was designed by celebrated modernist architect Paul Rudolph as an example of the Sarasota School of Architecture.

Commissioned by the Milams then built in 1961, it's the last home Rudolph designed in Florida. The dramatic beachside facade features a patchwork of squares and rectangles that recall the grid-like paintings of Piet Mondrian. The back of the of the house is hidden by woods off Highway A1A in St. Johns County. The house includes seven levels with windows and shading designed for morning and afternoon light. An architectural drawing of the house by Rudolph is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 

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