Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Guest Blogger: George Bassi, LRMA Director

This is George Bassi's column for the Laurel Leader-Call this week:

At the Museum

A new exhibition, The Needle’s Song: The Folk Art of Ethel Wright Mohamed, has opened in time for Mother’s Day in our Lower Level Galleries. Ethel Wright Mohamed, who died in 1992, is one of Mississippi’s premiere folk artists, and we will be hosting a show of her hand-stitched creations until July 8. The family’s gallery, “Mama’s Dream World,” in Belzoni, Mississippi, is dedicated to Mohamed’s work.

Mohamed’s colorful life in the Mississippi Delta is the focus of the majority of her pieces, many of which tell family stories. She also had a love of history and recreated in needlework many events throughout the history of our country. Often referred to as the “Grandma Moses of Mississippi,” Mohamed is important to our state’s culture, and the exhibit is surely one that will appeal to all generations.

I am particularly grateful to Carol Ivy, Curator of Mama’s Dream World, who was instrumental in assisting us in organizing this exhibition and to the Mississippi Humanities Council for providing grant support.

Exhibitions come to the Museum through a variety of sources, and all are approved through a committee of the Museum’s Board of Directors. The support from our Board is tremendous, and they are an integral part of our public programs.

Recently, three new members were elected to the Board of Directors. I am pleased to welcome Read Diket, Clay Johnson and Eugene Owens to the Museum’s governing authority and look forward to working with them in fulfilling the cultural and educational mission of LRMA.

With the election of new Board members, I want to thank the three members that they are replacing on the Board. Stewart Gilchrist, Pat McLean and Al Rosenbaum are rotating off the Board, and each has served the Museum admirably.

In fact, Pat McLean leaves the Board after serving the past three years as Chair. She has been a tremendous leader and, with her husband Bill, an avid supporter of the Museum and its education program. The Essmueller Company Education Endowment Fund, created by the McLeans, will provide support for the LRMA education program for years to come.

In working with non-profit Boards for almost twenty years, I have learned that some Board members simply cannot be replaced. Stewart Gilchrist is stepping down after 50 years of service to this Museum. It is rare to find such dedication, commitment and passion for an institution, and LRMA will always be grateful to Stewart for his invaluable insight, especially in the areas of collections, governance and finance.

LRMA is a better place because of Stewart, and I wish him and his wife Gene all the best as they move from Laurel this summer. The Gilchrist name has been in our town for more than a century, and it is hard for me to imagine Laurel without them.

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