Friday, July 22, 2011

Guest Blogger: George Bassi

“Are you busy at the Museum in the summer?” That is a question we are asked a lot this time of year at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art.

Summer has become our busiest season, thanks to a terrific education program under the direction of Curator of Education Mandy Buchanan and Education Outreach Coordinator Angie King. From art classes in our two studios to off-site programs around our six-county area, the summer is full of hands-on activities for children and adults.

Two weeks of Art Camp were just completed, and it is fun to see children leaving the Museum with paintings, collages and t-shirts that they created. The educational role of museums is at the core of museum service to the public and is the founding principal of this institution.

Through our free admission and our strong programming, we work constantly to serve the public by preserving our cultural, artistic and historical heritage. That is our role in Laurel and Jones County, and that is the role of more than 17,500 museums across this country. Together, museums preserve and protect more than a billion objects in their collections, and Americans trust us to interpret them. According to a study by Indiana University, museums are considered a more reliable source of historical information than books or teachers.

This summer has also been one of our busiest in terms of visitors to our exhibitions. Two popular exhibits of local interest, Focus on Fashion and Laurel Collects: Vintage Toys, have attracted multi-generations of families into our doors. Our popularity mirrors that of other museums across the country. Americans from all income and education ranges visit museums, and the latest statistics indicate that two-thirds of American adults visit a museum each year. There are nearly 850 million visits per year to U. S. museums– more than the attendance for all professional sporting events and theme parks combined.

Once school begins in a few weeks, museums in our country will spend more than $2.2 billion during the year on education, with the majority spent on K-12 student programming. Museums annually receive more than 90 million visits each year from students in school groups. Here at LRMA, we follow suit by committing two of our ten full-time staff members to education and attracting thousands of school children each year from a primarily rural audience. Thanks to Museum members who support our “Adopt-A-Bus” fund, we can reach schools that might not otherwise be able to afford a bus trip.

Museums are also economic development engines, with U.S. museums contributing $21 billion to the American economy each year. Communities recognize that the arts, humanities and museums are critical to the quality of life and livability of American cities and towns.

Based on our busy summer here at the Museum, I think we are definitely adding to the livability of Laurel and Jones County.

George Bassi, Executive Director

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