Paying homage to one of cinema's most romantic films of all times, the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum hosted its third annual RAM Gala, "Rendezvous in Casablanca," on Saturday (Feb. 14) evening. Hosted at the museum, the Valentine's Day event provided guests the perfect opportunity to celebrate love, the beloved classic "Casablanca," and one of the region's premier art organizations.
Upon arrival, guests were greeted by volunteers sporting "Casablanca" costumes and props depicting scenes from the movie. Small WWII-era airplanes hung from the ceiling and were incorporated throughout the decor, as were "Casablanca' movie posters, and other themed items. Screens also hung on gallery walls, playing the film for visitors to enjoy during the event.
Guests were encouraged to dress in black, white and red, in honor of the film and holiday. Some also sported Moroccan-chic outfits, as a tribute to the film. To mark the occasion, gala-goers could also have their photo made in front of a Parisian skyline to take home with them.
The evening got underway with a cocktail hour that included "Casablanca" inspired drinks such "The Isla" and "The Bogart." Live music could be heard throughout the museum and during the dinner and dessert courses.
Following dinner, RAM Executive Director Lee Ortega and Board President Bill Kropp called for the crowd's attention from the central staircase. Guests gathered to hear from them, as well as Mayor Sandy Sanders, who bragged on RAM's accomplishments and impact on the community.
"What this museum has been able to do in the few short years that it has been here is absolutely incredible," said Sanders. "Organizations such as this are crucial to our area's continued growth and development. They help us attract new people and companies and promote quality of place."
During the program, Kropp and Ortega expressed their appreciation to the crowd for their support of the event and of the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum. They also made an exciting announcement regarding one of the organization's biggest supporters.
"We are pleased to announce that we are naming the second floor gallery after Marta Jones," said Kropp. "I can't go over the 11,000 things that Marta has done to get us here, but I can assure you that they both (Marta and her husband) have given their treasure, blood, and sweat to the museum. She has been the single most important person in this project and it is as a result of her and who she is that we have a museum here and not just an art center. "
Jones' husband, Dr. Greg Jones, accepted the honor on his wife's behalf. She was unable to attend due to a family illness.
"My wife has lived this and breathed this," said Jones. "I remember her coming home with books about forming boards and renovating bank buildings. She so wanted to be here tonight, but couldn't be. She would want me to tell you all to 'Let's keep on keeping on this way' and to say thank you."
After the dedication ceremony, organizers announced that the final call for purchasing raffle tickets. For $10, guests could buy a chance to win one of seven prizes, which ranged from gift cards to local boutiques and eateries to special museum store packages. A $2,500 Newton's Jewelers Shopping Spree was also up for grabs.
The gala serves as the museum's largest annual fundraiser. Tickets were $75 for RAM members and $100 for non-members. Building upon the success of last year, organizers were able to increase their total profit even before doors opened.
"Last year our grand total generated by the gala, including cash and in-kind gifts, was $22,000," explained Ortega. "This year so far we’ve raised a total of $32,000, so we are very pleased.”
Ortega also noted the important role that private and corporate donations play in bringing unique exhibits and educational opportunities to the area.
"All proceeds from the gala benefit exhibitions and educational programming only—so the results from our annual fundraiser have a direct impact our future offering," said Ortega. "For example our biggest sponsor this year, Rheem, dedicated their sponsorship to an art camp for kids this summer at RAM. Rheem, and other like-minded companies and individuals make it possible for us to serve the public, offer free admission, and open our doors six days a week. What a large number of people don’t understand is that RAM relies solely on private donations and grant funding. All funding goes to exhibitions and educational programming—and sponsors can designate where their gifts are utilized."
RAM is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.