The Schacknow Museum of Fine Arts or SMOFA for short, is a wonderful and quaint museum / gallery in the heart of old Plantation. Its founder and director is Max Schacknow. Max truly is 87 years young. He is a vibrant, intelligent and clearly talented jewel of a man. Born in Brooklyn, he is the son of a mannequin creator, his father, and a quilt designer, his mother. Just like his father and brother, Max proudly served in the U.S. Navy. He enlisted soon after his father’s passing because as he explained, “Someone needed to help my mother out. She was sick at the time.” Max was 18 when his father passed.
Max had always loved art and wanted to be an artist. He started out at 10-years-old doing pencil drawings because pencils were all the family could afford. In 1950, Max spent two and a half years at the Cartoonist and Illustrator School now known as The School of Visual Arts in New York City. The tuition was free as it was paid for through the VA.
Jump to 1973 and Max is employed as a textile broker. He was the “middleman” between those that needed fabric and those that had large amounts of it to sell. Max made a good living at this. He kept up with his drawing the whole time, as it was his passion. One day Max’s wife told him to stop messing with his ham radios and really take up his art again. He decided he would go to the local classes being offered at the adult education school. One day, while in class, the instructor asked Max if he would teach the class, citing, “You know more than me.” Max soon after quit the class, but he never lost the passion. “I started to paint a lot. Two days turned to four, and soon I was painting everyday.”
Max came to visit South Florida to celebrate his brother’s 70th birthday in 1992. “I loved what I saw down here, so I decided to move. After going through open heart surgery, I knew I didn’t need to work anymore.”
During our enlightening conversation, Max told me how he always wanted to open a museum in New York. Now that he was in South Florida, he set his heart on opening one in the city he now called home: Plantation. It never matriculated and Max took his idea to other cities in Broward County. The city of Coral Springs agreed, partnered up with Max on the development, and a museum was built. They were together from 1994-1997 until things no longer were working amicably for both sides.
In 1998, after a mayoral run in his hometown, Max reset his sights back on opening a museum in Plantation. “When my realtor showed me the property at 7080 NW 4th Street (the museum’s current location), it was like an angel was on my shoulder, tapping me, saying ‘Buy This Place’…so I did.”
It is now 2010 and the museum has been open since June 1, 2000. SMOFA has had over 500+ artists displayed from countries as far as China, Spain and Italy. The museum has had near 80,000 guests view the art it houses. The gallery features artists of all styles. Max, along with curators Olga Avallone and Brittany Smith, invites artists from all over the world to have their art appear. Typically, the artist is given two months to display. It is asked that they display between 10-25 pieces. That way, the museum can take on the work of 10-15 artists at a given time.
There is no cost to the artist to display at SMOFA. However the artist must cover the freight of the artwork to and from the museum. It is asked of the displaying artist that they donate $150 if they can to the museum. Max takes these donations and buys food, clothes, toys, etc. and distributes to various charities such as : Joe Dimaggio Children’s Hospital, Women in Distress, Faith Farm, David Posnack JCC and Father Flanagan’s Boys Town.
“The museum makes no money. All entry fees and commissions from sold artwork goes straight to our charities!”
I had a great experience speaking with Max and learning the history of his museum that he worked so hard for. Max has 2,400+ paintings to his credit. Over time, Max has even had 27 of his works actually stolen for one reason or another. His most valuable piece of art that he created was of famous American director, John Huston, and was valued in the millions.
Max told me, “The recession has really hurt the art world. A lot of museums have cut back and even closed up. This has affected a lot of artists.” Max is doing his best to give artists a chance by showing their art in “his house”. Any artist interested in displaying should contact SMOFA at their website.
Museum Address: 7080 NW 4th Street, Plantation FL, 33317
Museum Phone: 954.583.5551
Museum Hours: Tuesday – Saturday…10 AM-5 PM
Admission: $5.00 adults…$3.00 seniors and students…Children under 12 are FREE
For a schedule of events and exhibits, the website : www.smofa.com