RICHMOND, Ind. — Richmond Art Museum staff and volunteers are preparing for future generations of kids to walk through the museum’s galleries.

Staff soon will begin the public phase of a capital campaign to pay for renovations and help secure the 118-year-old museum’s financial future.

The art museum has a unique role in local education. It’s the only independent art museum housed within a public school (Richmond High School) in the United States.

“We are often the first and only exposure students have to an art museum,” said Shaun Dingwerth, the museum’s executive director. “The Richmond Art Museum gives students a chance to see world-class art at no cost.”

At last week’s Richmond Community Schools board meeting, Dingwerth told the board and administrators the museum has seen tremendous growth in the past decade, offering 280 programs and serving nearly 7,000 children.

“We have alumni who’ve come back, who, after they’ve been out in the world, they come back and realize how significant Richmond Art Museum’s collection is once they’ve gone and visited other museums,” Dingwerth said.

About the campaign

Billboards and promotional materials announcing the project can be seen around town with a compass and the RAM logo on graph paper with measurement marks and the words “Preparing to Renew.”

To bring awareness to the fundraiser, a press conference is planned for 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 6 at the museum.

The event will include a special guest appearance by mother-and-daughter duo Karen Laine and Mina Starsiak, who appear on the HGTV series “Good Bones.” The women are revitalizing their hometown of Indianapolis one property at a time on the show. Those who want to attend the press conference are asked to reserve a seat in advance by contacting the museum.

The “Renewing a Masterpiece” campaign has two parts, securing the museum’s immediate and long-term future through gallery enhancements and funding an endowment.

Renovations could start in February and take four to six months.

By upgrading the museum’s inefficient climate control and fire suppression system that’s 30 years old, Dingwerth said he’s hopeful to have more opportunities to borrow art from other collections for special exhibitions.

Some of the museum’s assets will be modernized for visitors, such as its current “Harry Potter”-style restrooms. Dingwerth’s description of the restrooms received chuckles at the school board meeting.

Dingwerth said the museum is working closely with Richmond Community Schools administration on the project. RCS employees Rob Tidrow and Glen Slifer are serving on the museum’s facility committee that is overseeing the renovation.

The museum’s current home, McGuire Hall, was dedicated on Dec. 7, 1941, and the whole high school is on the National Register of Historic Places, so that is factoring into renovation plans.

“We’re very excited about this opportunity to invest in McGuire Hall,” Dingwerth said.

Robin Henry, who is the museum board’s treasurer and chair of the capital campaign, expressed her gratitude to RCS leaders for their support of the museum. She is senior vice president of human resources at West End Bank.

“We’re excited to have your support, Richmond Community Schools, in making this museum happen,” Henry said. “We could not do this without your partnership, and we’re excited to have the partnership with our community members in support of this campaign, too.”

RCS Superintendent Todd Terrill said the partnership is good for the schools.

“They provide so many opportunities for our students and, in turn, for our community,” Terrill said. “…We appreciate their efforts to continue to maintain our facilities and to improve those facilities.”

About the educational impact

“Being part of the school system is critical to what we do,” Dingwerth said. “All of our programs, we keep the student population in mind, as well as the exhibits.”

Dingwerth said the arts still are relevant, helping students develop critical-thinking skills important in the 21st-century world.

“This is such a unique partnership,” said school board president Dixie Robinson. “It’s been so old and so long-standing.”

Money raised for the endowment would generate income for educational programs such as RAM’s Phantoscope high school film festival, the All Wayne County High School Art Exhibition and the “Art Is…” field trips for elementary students. Phantoscope has grown so much it has moved to the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis and has received some national press, Dingwerth said.

He said RAM’s collection is known widely by art scholars and curators. Its permanent collection has more than 2,000 objects, and the museum frequently is asked to lend works for exhibitions around the country. For instance, RAM recently loaned its self-portrait of Indiana native William Merritt Chase for a touring exhibit of his works called “William Merritt Chase: A Modern Master.”

The Chase exhibit has received national attention from National Public Radio, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. It’s making stops at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the International Gallery of Modern Art in Venice, Italy.

Dingwerth said the self-portrait, commissioned in 1912, is considered one of Chase’s most significant works. The Boston museum just contacted RAM for permission to use the Richmond painting on all its signage to promote the exhibit.

Terrill’s also grateful for the help the art museum provides in hosting events for the schools. For instance, the museum hosted the new teacher orientation lunch before school began, and new teachers were able to walk through the galleries.

“It’s one more thing they’re impressed with as they come to Richmond Community Schools,” Terrill said.


Source: (Richmond) Palladium-Item, http://pinews.co/2bPjhn7


Information from: Palladium-Item, http://www.pal-item.com

This is an Indiana Exchange story shared by the (Richmond) Palladium-Item.