Named for Doylestown's most famous son, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer James A. Michener, this museum was founded in 1988 with a regional focus, housing a collection of Pennsylvania impressionist paintings. An ongoing interest is the collection and exhibition of the work of art-furniture makers and designers working in the Bucks County area, such as George Nakashima. With a 2012 grant from the Center, the Michener organized the first major retrospective of the work of art-furniture designer Paul Evans, whose mid-20th-century, metal-sculpted chests and cabinets represent an expressive alternative to the unadorned minimalist furniture of the same era. A 2015 Center grant will support the presentation of Charles Sheeler: Fashion, Photography, and Sculptural Form, an exhibition of painter and photographer Charles Sheeler's little-known fashion photography created for Condé Nast between 1926 and 1931—a body of work that significantly informed the aesthetic vision of one of American modernism's founding figures.
The first large-scale project undertaken by the museum in response to its expanded focus on collecting and presenting regional studio crafts, Paul Evans: Crossing Boundaries and Crafting Modernism will explore the sculpted-bronze art furniture of the Bucks County, Pennsylvania artist (1931–87). Working with expressive, abstract forms and molten surfaces, Evans forged a dramatic sensibility that applied principals from abstract expressionist painting to the design of cabinets, chests, tables, sofas, and side-tables. Research for this 2014 monographic survey has been several years in the making and is guided by Curator of the Collections Connie Kimmerle, working with a team of international scholars. The project will present Evans' work not simply as that of an iconic maker, but as connected with the cultural life of its community, as an outgrowth of the conditions of modern education and technology, and as responsive to America's post-war economic boom. The museum will publish a blog on the making of the exhibition, produce an orientation video, create an educational website, host a symposium, and publish a 160-page, multi-author catalogue. The exhibition is expected to travel to the Cranbrook Art Museum in Michigan and the Fuller Craft Museum in Massachusetts.