That was the question everyone was asking Thursday evening (Oct. 25) as the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum (RAM) kicked-off its membership drive with a celebrity Whodunnit? art auction and cocktail party.
Hosted at the Fianna Hills Country Club, the event welcomed loyal supporters and potential new members alike for an entertaining evening of art, music and hors d'oeuvres.
Upon arrival, attendees were given the opportunity to renew their membership and to enroll friends as new members. Current members who signed-up a friends were granted free admission to the auction. New members received a 20% discount for their first year, regardless of what level of membership they selected.
After making their way inside, guests placed their bids in the silent auction, which featured works of art created by high-profile individuals in the Fort Smith area. The identity of each piece’s creator was kept secret throughout the auction, with only a list of participating artists being provided in the program. The big reveal came at the end of the evening.
The group of celebrity artists included a range of city officials, including Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders. Local CEOs, such as Sam Sicard, First National Bank of Fort Smith, and Melody Trimble, Sparks Health System, also created pieces for the auction.
No artistic experience was required to participate, although many of the artists turned out impressive “masterpieces.” Each celebrity was provided with an 8×10 canvas and encouraged to use any type of medium they wanted. RAM’s only real “rule” was the that artists create something ‘from the heart.”
A handful of professional artists also created pieces for the event. Works by Kay Aclin, John Bell, Jr., Don Lee and Emily Wood were auctioned alongside the pieces crafted by the “amateur” celebrity artists.
While guests dined and perused the art auction, members of the string quintet, Strung Up, performed. The group is comprised of students from Southside High School and University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.
The organization’s first official membership drive event, the auction comes less than three months before the RAM is scheduled to open its new, state-of-the-art museum to the public. The new center will be climate controlled and will be equipped to facilitate nationally renowned traveling exhibits.
The building for RAM’s new facility was donated by Arvest in 2009. A complete renovation of the 16,000-square-foot building has taken place over the last three years, as the staff and board have worked to raise the necessary funds to transform the building into a modern-day center, fit for housing some of the country’s most sought-after exhibitions.
“Membership is one of the best ways to contribute to the museum because it creates a solid foundation of support,” said Lee Ortega, RAM director. “New benefits of membership include invitations to members-only events, discounts on educational programming, exhibition tours, special discounts in the museum shop and reciprocal membership at more than 600 museums nationwide.”
Memberships start at $35. Naming opportunities start at the $1,000 level.
During the auction, Ortega and RAM Board President Marta Jones welcomed the crowd and thanked each of the members, artists and volunteers for their support.
“We are thrilled that so many are here this evening,” said Jones. “We are so excited to have your support.”
Ortega echoed Jones remarks and added that she hoped “to see everyone on January 19.”
At the end of the evening, each piece’s artist was announced and high-bidders were allowed to collect their picture to take home. Every auction item was sold, with the highest bidder taking home the piece created by Ryan Gehrig, president of Mercy Hospital-Fort Smith.