story and photos by Brittany Ransom
It was a celebration of the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum's (RAM) history, as well as a glimpse into its future on Thursday (May 1) evening as RAM hosted its first ever "An Art Affair" gala.
Fine food, drinks, and fine art were featured at the event, with a full spread provided by 21 West End and In Good Spirits. While dining, guests made their way throughout the gallery, browsing photos taken at museum events of the past several decades.
Also on display were RAM's two current exhibits, including "The Art of Romance," which showcased antique Valentine cards and greetings, and the modern "COIN Installation," by Dayton Castleman. Guests were treated to private viewings of the exhibits and were free to browse the collections throughout the night.
"Selfie-snapping" was a sport at the gala, as guests took advantage of the many cameras scattered around the museum. Many took true "selfies" while others used the disposable cameras to capture fellow guests. Organizers informed guests that the pictures would be used at next year's gala to show some of the highlight's from this year's event.
A professional artist was on-hand drawing portraits of guests for them to take home at the end of the evening. Many gala-goers also donned fun props and headed into the photo booth to have their picture made with their date or party.
For only $10, guests could purchase tickets for the chance to win one of seven prizes, which ranged from restaurant gift cards, to RAM family membership packets. The grand prize, a $2,000 Newton's Jewelers gift certificate, was also up for grabs in the drawing.
Lee Ortega, RAM executive director, and Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders, welcomed the crowd and shared information about the museum. Ortega recognized each of the sponsors, while Mayor Sanders took a few minutes to brag on Ortega and her role in guiding the museum.
"Not many organizations such as this would expect its executive director to become a construction manager, but that is exactly what Lee did," said Sanders. "She assumed the role, and worked hard … and the Regional Art Museum opened on schedule."
RAM opened in its new location in January 2013, after a lengthy renovation and move into the former Superior Bank property. The site was completely redesigned into a contemporary art facility to showcase nationally-acclaimed exhibits. It was at that time that the organization transitioned from the Fort Smith Art Center to the RAM, having been in existence for more than 60 years.
Ortega also shared with the crowd some of RAM's future plans and recent achievements, including expanding gallery hours to better accommodate visitors and encourage more students and school groups to tour.
Tickets for "An Art Affair" were $75 for RAM members, and $100 for non-members. Organizers hoped to raise between $15,000-$20,000 to benefit RAM's exhibits and educational programming.
RAM will debut its newest exhibit, "Carol Dickie: An Artist’s Journey," on May 8, with an opening reception at the museum. The coming months also include hosting the 66th annual River Valley Invitational art contest, and a summer art camp for children and teens. RAM is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.