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Museum gala a ‘lovely’ affair

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The turnout might not have been huge but attendees seemed to enjoy themselves at the Fort Frances Museum’s “Night at the Museum” wine-and-cheese fundraising gala there Thursday evening.

“It was lovely as always,” said Sarah Marusyk, acting president of the “Friends of the Museum,” which hosted the fifth-annual event.

“That’s my favourite way to describe it,” she added. “It was a really lovely evening.”

While admitting there probably were fewer people in attendance compared to previous years, Marusyk said it didn’t compromise its success.

“We didn’t have a real exhibition in there taking up space [and] I think that played a factor in it just feeling a little quieter than in previous years,” she reasoned, adding she doesn’t think they are the only group in town that struggles with ticket sales in advance.

“People just like to wait until the last minute for whatever reason,” Marusyk remarked, noting it would be nice to have more people come out.

“Those who weren’t there really missed out,” she stressed.

“It was successful in that I think people had a really lovely time.”

Final totals were not available at press time, but while they may not have reached last year’s amount of $3,200, Marusyk was happy with the event given the “Friends” faced a lot of adversity this year.

She noted some members left to pursue other endeavours and they also needed to hire a caterer for the event.

“We typically don’t hire a caterer to do the food—we have a member that takes that on but she wasn’t able to this year,” Marusyk explained.

“So we were thrown a few curve balls,” she conceded. “But I think we pulled it off despite those difficult things.

“It came together as it always does.”

As in past years, the Rainy Lake Community Orchestra added “a touch of class to the event” while the Rainy Lake Highlanders set the mood for the evening—piping in guests as they arrived.

“The orchestra is such a nice addition,” Marusyk enthused. “They are really integral to the whole evening.

“And having the pipers are a fun way to kick the evening off.”

She added people enjoyed the little interactive game that saw attendees given a sticker on their back featuring the name of a historical or literacy character, then they would have to ask other guests questions in order to guess it.

“We thought it would be a good way for people to interact with each other who maybe wouldn’t normally, and maybe spark some interesting conversations,” she reasoned.

In addition, several people also took on the request to dress up like a historical character.

Meanwhile, those on hand enjoyed the spread of delicious food prepared by Todd Moxham of Cater 2 U.

“The donations for the auction were fantastic from local artists and businesses, as usual,” noted Marusyk, adding auctioneer Telford Advent did a great job.

“He’s funny and gets people bidding against each other,” she remarked. “You can tell he really loves what he does and likes to share it with people.

“He’s a key piece in making it all work,” Marusyk added, noting about $1,500 was raised on the auction alone.

The money raised by the “Friends of the Museum” is used to enhance programming there that goes beyond the normal operating budget.

Over the past year, the group handed out free popcorn during last year’s “Festival of Frost,” held its fourth-annual “Snoasis,” and beautified the museum courtyard back in June.

They once again are planning their “Snoasis” family fun day in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday.

“We will be partnering with groups across the community to shape an entire winter carnival,” Marusyk noted.

The “Friends” also have co-sponsored a number of very successful workshops at the museum, led by local artist facilitators.

“The workshops continue to be a really big focus for the ‘Friends’ and a huge success in the community, with three of our fall classes already full,” Marusyk said.

She added the group even partnered with the “Friends of the Library” to apply for funding through the Moffatt Family Fund to assist the museum with its interactive programming initiative.

They were awarded $6,000, which will go towards the purchase of smart devices.

“I think most of us still think of museums as an old building that exhibits even older things,” curator Sherry George said during the opening speeches at last Thursday’s gala.

“That is the idea that many of us grew up with so it’s hard to see it as anything more,” she conceded.

“But museums today are changing and growing,” George stressed. “We no longer are simply about the items we have on display.

“Today, it’s more about what we can learn about those exhibits; what our historical and cultural pasts can tell us and how we can apply what we’ve learned to building better and more cohesive communities.”

George said museums of the future will be learning centres.

“Photographs and documents will be digitized and available to researchers,” she noted.

“Artifacts that are unique or important for what they can tell us will also be photographed and made available to people even if they cannot visit.”

George said that exhibits still will be important—but they will need to tell a story.

“A story that we perhaps had not thought about before; a story that will both engage and challenge our visitors,” she explained.

And programming will be key.

“That’s why our interactive programming initiative is so important,” George said, noting intern Julia Piskiewicz, working with the library’s Jeremy Hughes, made a good start on this project over last summer.

Current intern Lauren Hyatt, the new programming and events co-ordinator, will continue putting those pieces together.

“The project using smart devices to access audio and video will make our exhibits more inviting to our young,” George added.

And she’s thrilled the arts programming that’s been offered at the museum was met with such success.

“Classes are full and we have waiting lists,” George noted.

“This tells us that these programs are needed—needed not only so that participants can experience something new, but important for others just to get out of the house, met new people, and socialize.”

“The ‘Friends’ are eager to continue our work in raising additional money for museum programming and events for our community,” Marusyk vowed.

She is encouraging people to pick up their 2017 calendar, which officially was launched during Thursday’s gala.

Dubbed “Canada 150: Our Moments and Milestones,” Marusyk said it’s a unique calendar marking our community’s contributions and defining moments from the last 150 years.

The cost is $20 and it can be purchased at the museum.

The calendar also will be available soon in other locations.

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