The Armory’s mission is to provide high-quality visual art school and art gallery services that stimulate personal self-discovery and generate knowledge and awareness of art as part of life.
A dedicated group of artists, art teachers and community activists were responsible for the formation of the Armory Art Center in 1986 to ensure the continuation of practical art instruction in Palm Beach County. At that time, the Norton Museum Gallery and School of Art no longer saw having an art school as part of its mission; it became known as the Norton Museum of Art, and discontinued art instruction classes.
These forward thinking community activists sought out a place to hold classes, and they discovered the derelict Armory building, built in 1939 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in Art Deco style was designed by architect William Manley King. From 1939-1982 it was used as an armory and occupied by the National Guard, but by the late 1980s after a period of multiple community uses, (including high school dances) it was scheduled for demolition. Community activists, artists and teachers and the Palm Beach County Cultural Council convinced the City of West Palm Beach to spare the Armory building from demolition. Transforming the abandoned classic Art Deco structure into a vibrant space for art classes and art exhibitions, the Armory Art Center was incorporated as a not-for-profit on December 1, 1986. With generous contributions from many patrons, most notably Robert and Mary Montgomery and with the State of Florida Historic Preservation and Cultural Facilities Grants, the Center opened its doors in 1987. The Armory building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
Over the past twenty-five years the Armory has educated students, recently increasing the student population (youth have increased 50% in the past two years), and exhibited works of art in more than 400 shows. Visiting Master Artists from all over the United States have taught special classes; the opportunity to hone their artistic skills has been made available to more than 30 Artists-In-Residence, promising young artists given the opportunity to create a body of work while teaching. The Armory Art Center provides high quality art instruction to the community in many media. It serves a diverse cultural and cross-generational student body.