Andre Smith, The Research Studio, Maitland Art Center


Jules Andre Smith was an architect and an artist with an aspiration to build a retreat where artists could explore and develop new ideas. In the late 1930s, due to the generosity of a benefactor named Mary Louise Curtis Bok, Smith embarked upon an undertaking that fulfilled his ambition. He created a legacy known first as The Research Studio and later as the Maitland Art Center. The intent of this thesis is to document and journey through Smith's legacy, and answer the following two questions: What is the symbolic meaning behind the imagery? Why design six acres of architecture dominated by Mesoamerican and Christian-influenced iconography? The data collection process consisted of interviews; reviews of the City of Maitland council meeting minutes; readings of court documents, newspaper articles, and books in Smith's personal library along with a literature review related to the iconography surrounding the walls and floors of Smith's compound. Interviews with those who knew Smith consisted of open-ended questions related to Smith's character, his association with the artists, his work habits, his reasoning for choosing the unlikely mix of Christian and Mesoamerican-influenced art, and the artist-in-residence experience. A recap of the meetings was mailed to each of the parties consulted for verification of the content. The judicial system played a crucial role in mapping Smith's legacy following his death when an unfortunate set of circumstances found his work the object of three legal proceedings in Orange County, Florida. To unravel all the charges and the final judgments, hundreds of microfiche records were reviewed and eighty pages printed for re-review before completing the section of this document pertaining to the legalities surrounding the facility's future. Over 100 newspaper articles were catalogued and coded based on their relevant time periods. Collectively, they contained information related to Smith's early years in the Maitland-Winter Park area, events leading up to the building of his artists' retreat, and the fate of the vision following Smith's death. Before I began a literature review to decipher the meaning behind the sculptures and reliefs, I photographed and categorized many of the images by subject. This process included reviews of over sixty books and articles. Additionally, an expert in the field of Mesoamerican culture, Dr. Arlen Chase, was consulted regarding some elements of the iconography. Preceding my conclusions, the reader is given a tour of the grounds followed by a comparison of the imagery to the appropriate cultural representations.


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Graduation Date





Congdon, Kristin


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Arts and Sciences


Office of Liberal and Interdisciplinary Studies

Degree Program

Liberal Studies








Release Date

January 2006

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)