Our Story

Students work in the Art Studio in the north wing of Flagler Hall (c. 1903). Source: University Archives, duPont-Ball Library, Stetson University, DeLand, Florida

Established in 1883, Stetson University is deeply rooted in the visual and performing arts. Archival images document early inception of university-based art programs, music recitals, theater productions and a diverse cast of visiting artists. The arts have remained a vibrant element of campus life.

Our story – as an university art museum and gallery system – developed through the practice of collecting and displaying works of art. Past iterations, such as the Duncan Gallery and the Sampson Hall gallery spaces, paved the way for an eclectic Permanent Collection and an active calendar of cultural events.

In 2009, the inauguration of the Homer and Dolly Hand Art Center ushered a new era for Stetson and the broader Volusia County community. Our ability to facilitate art exhibitions, host public, gatherings, and perform collections management activities grew exponentially. This did not happen by chance. It took a coordinated effort and generous individuals who believed in our potential.

Among them, Vera Bluemner Kouba and the Hand Family. In 1997, Vera Bluemner Kouba, DeLand resident and daughter of the Modernist painter Oscar Bluemner, gifted Stetson University with a collection of over 1,000 pieces of her late father’s art and personal effects. Vera was a staunch advocate of the arts, and a devoted fan of the programming provided by the Stetson School of Music. When the time came to place this collection of artwork, she chose to give back to the institution that gave her so much.

Gutenberg (New Jersey) (1910) by Oscar Bluemner. Vera Bluemner Kouba Collection. Homer and Dolly Hand Art Center. 2000.01.60.007.
The Hand Art Center and Sampson Hall.
The Hand Art Center and Sampson Hall, with the Lynn Business Center in the background, as seen from the library roof (2010). Source: University Archives, duPont-Ball Library, Stetson University, DeLand, Florida

This wonderful gift inspired a campaign for a dedicated facility to properly house, research and share the Vera Bluemner Kouba Collection.

The Volusia County ECHO Program offered a generous grant that beyond funding our physical structure, ensured the Hand would open to the public at no cost, thus securing public access to all future exhibitions and events.

Dolly Hand, a Stetson alumna and former trustee, also contributed generous funds. Dolly and husband Homer Hand became our namesakes and a meaningful part of our legacy.

Construction broke ground in 2009. It included a seminar room for teaching, a work and prep room for handling art and artifacts, three gallery spaces, and a state of the art vault to house the Vera Bluemner Kouba Collection and the preexisting Permanent Collection.

Since then, the Hand continues to grow. Every visitor, exhibit and accession adds to our story and our commitment to the arts.