The Fort Smith Regional Art Museum (FSRAM) is still on pace to open Jan. 19, 2013, according to Executive Director Lee Ortega, who added that it would be “fully operational,” though fundraising is still a concern and will be moving forward.
Since April 2012, FSRAM has picked up an anonymous $500,000 donation, bringing the overall fundraising total to $3 million, Ortega said.
“The fact that we have reached this point does not mean the fundraising stops,” Ortega said. “In fact, this is just the beginning. In order to flourish, the museum will need consistent financial support to fund the exhibitions and educational programming.”
Ortega said the museum’s “biggest challenge” in the road ahead will be “developing a broader donor base for the museum.”
“The extent of the museum’s ongoing success is directly related to the support and interest of the people in Fort Smith and the nearby communities,” Ortega said. “The museum will not fully achieve its vision without the public’s support. We feel strongly that once the community understands that investing in RAM means raising the bar for the quality of life in Fort Smith, the museum will be able to secure its place in the cultural landscape in Northwest Arkansas.”
Ortega continued: “In addition to cash donations and membership, another great way to help the museum is through in-kind donations. Dale Dean’s Carpet of Fort Smith donated all of the carpeting for the administrative offices and we are seeking other in-kind donations for the building. Volunteering is another great way to contribute. Our wonderful team of volunteers is one of our strongest assets, and we look forward to offering them many new ways to invest their time and talent after we open our doors.”
The FSRAM membership kickoff will launch on Oct. 25 with a Celebrity Whodunit Auction at the Fianna Hills Country Club from 5:30 to 8 p.m. The auction invites guests to bid on “original works of art created by high profile individuals in Fort Smith and the surrounding areas” with the artists’ identities revealed at the end of the event, according to a recent news release.
While things have been somewhat quiet for FSRAM in recent months, details for the grand opening in the new location at 1601 Rogers Ave. will be released “closer to January,” while membership details “will be announced at the Oct. 25 event,” Ortega said.
The new FSRAM plans to feature exhibitions, educational programming, dynamic events, and cultural partnerships, Ortega added, and will also provide art classes of all levels for children and adults, lectures, free family days, opening receptions, films, galas, wine tastings, panel discussions, artist-led workshops, facility rentals, and a specialty gift shop featuring creations by local and regional artists.
“Transitioning from an Art Center to a Museum is about positive change,” Ortega said. “Investing in RAM means contributing to the quality of life in Fort Smith and helping create an exciting place where community conversation and interaction is encouraged. A successful art museum will boost cultural tourism for the area, attract new and desirable community members, and strengthen civic pride.”
Ortega was hired as executive director of FSRAM in February 2011, after a transitional fundraising campaign launched by the Fort Smith Art Center in late 2008 to relocate from its location in the Belle Grove Historic District, where it sat for four decades. Arvest Bank made the expansion possible by donating the new building in Jan. 2009 following a $211 million buyout of Superior Federal Bank in 2003.