The White Party held Friday evening (May 18) at the large Fort Smith home of Diane and Kenny King to benefit the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum was more of a celebration than a fundraiser, said Lee Ortega.
Ortega, executive director of the museum, said in 1977 the International Council of Museums established international museum day on May 18. The day now recognized more than 30,000 museums in more than 120 countries, Ortega explained.
Also, the White Party concept — which Ortega said she was surprised to learn is not one of the event/fundraising concepts utilized in the Fort Smith area — is intended to symbolize a group of people showing purity and unity toward a cause.
“It’s everyone coming together and showing support, so that’s why we are all here in one color,” Ortega said.
Recognition and symbolism are nice, but they don't necessarily pay the bills.
Ortega said through the generosity of supporters and the King family, the museum could raise around $20,000 from the White Party.
The funds will help support the operation of a center in the midst of an about $2.3 million construction and expansion project. The new museum, located at 1601 Rogers Ave., near downtown Fort Smith, is set to open Jan. 19.
It’s been three years since Arvest Bank deeded the former bank building the Fort Smith Arts Center to convert into a museum. The 16,000-square-foot building with a cement exterior that was common for its mid-century architecture is triple the size of the organization’s former location in the historic Vaughn-Schaap house.
Plans initially called for a $2.5 million project, but Ortega said they’ve been able to creatively reduce the costs by around $200,000.
“We’ve actually managed to cut costs without compromising quality,” she added.
Ortega said the museum board and volunteers have successfully raised the $2.3 million.
The new museum will feature two large exhibit areas, space for art classes for children and adults, reception areas and a gift shop. Museum space will also provide room for films, lectures, social events and artist-led workshops.