New director on the job at Fort Smith Regional Art Museum; 75th anniversary gala set

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,089 views 

Michael Hall is the new executive director of the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum (RAM). His first day was April 3, and he replaced the retired Louis Meluso, who had served as the director since 2017.

Dr. Georgia Hale, who retired as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith in 2022, served as the interim director between Meluso’s retirement in October and Hall taking over the position.

“The excitement of RAM’s 75th year continues as we look forward to welcoming Michael Hall,” said Jackie Krutsch, RAM board president. “We wish to thank Dr. Georgia Hale who served as a strong and dynamic interim director.

Hall is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the museum’s operations, steering RAM to fulfill its mission as an extraordinary regional art museum through development of a new strategic plan, programs, community outreach, arts education, and inclusive cultural events, a news release said.

“I believe that none of us can navigate the future without understanding our history, science, art, and culture. And those subjects are what museums have always embodied—past, present, and future,” Hall said. “I am excited to work with the talented staff and board to create programming and exhibitions that engage, inspire, and challenge our visitors and I am honored to join the Fort Smith Regional team as its new director.”

Hall has worked in various leadership and curatorial roles at well-known U.S. museums. He also has expertise in all aspects of museum management, including strategic planning, grant writing, and programming, a news release said. He said he enjoyed visiting museums as a child accompanying his mother on business trips and knew from a young age he wanted to work in that world.

“In those days there were few exhibits that we would today call interactive. Yet, even as a very young child, I enjoyed looking at hundreds of marvelous but very static artifacts housed in rows and rows of old glass display cases. … Also exciting my imagination and eventually motivating me to study history, science, and art were these great giant stuffed mastodons and historic aircraft suspended from the ceilings, and endless galleries of art that illustrated human achievements of our world history,” he said.

Michael Hall, executive director of the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum

Hall has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in history and museum studies. He has worked for historical and art museums, including positions at Smithsonian Associated Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation, Roswell Museum & Art Center & Robert H. Goddard Planetarium, Gold Coast Railroad Museum, Schoolhouse Children’s Museum and Learning Center, and Montgomery County Historical Society.

Hall joins the museum as it prepares for its 75th Anniversary Celebration Gala, “Evening in Paris,” to be held April 29 at the ACHE Research Institute Health & Wellness Center, 1000 Fianna Way. Proceeds from the Gala will go toward RAM’s exhibitions and education classes that are free to the public. With Evening in Paris, RAM’s first off-site gala, the goal is to raise $125,000.

“In addition to our free programs, we fundraise and apply for grants to help us maintain our circa 1963 min-century modern building. One new expense for our organization that has come to the surface is the need for an entire new roof, at a cost of $200,000,” said Julie Moncrief, RAM development director.

RAM has not held its annual fundraiser since 2019 and is using this 75th anniversary for a party that will toast the nonprofit’s past and future and get new fans excited about its role in the community.

“It’s a two-fold event that gives people a glimpse of what it has taken to bring RAM to this point, and to also let everyone celebrate the richness of having such a dynamic, accessible-to-all cultural asset to enjoy,” Moncrief said.

Located at 1601 Rogers Ave. in downtown Fort Smith, the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum offers art exhibitions from world-class artists, traveling exhibitions, permanent collection exhibitions, and art by emerging artists in its 16,000-square-foot facility. From professional art workshops and juried art contests to online art classes and free Saturday art-making programs, RAM works to connect with schools, visitors, and community members of all ages and backgrounds.

The museum’s hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Entry to RAM is free. The museum was awarded a $12 million endowment from the Windgate Foundation in late 2018 to be used for programs and events. It receives a quarterly stipend from the endowment, which is being professionally managed, but still needs to continue its fundraising efforts in order to expand education programs and offer more and diverse exhibits.