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Museum wraps up 75th year with glittery gala

September 11, 2007|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

The men streaming into Fountain Head Country Club on Saturday evening, Sept. 8, sported crisp tuxedos, and their dates donned ornate evening dresses. Most women opted for black, while a few wore bolder reds and golds. Many of the ladies' gowns were embellished with sequins that flickered in the candlelight, befitting the Diamond Jubilee they had come to celebrate.

Washington County Museum of Fine Arts hosted the grand finale celebration of its 75th anniversary following months of special programs, exhibits, studio art classes, lectures and concerts observing the milestone.

Katie Groh Fitzsimmons of Williamsport, a member of the board of trustees, was chairwoman of the 75th anniversary committee.

"A lot of people provided sponsorships and purchased tickets to tonight's event to show their support of the arts in Washington County," Fitzsimmons said, "and to celebrate the accomplishments of the museum over the last 75 years and look forward to another 75 years."

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Halona Young-Wolfe, development director for the museum, said the anniversary celebration kicked off about one year ago with the Festival for the Arts at Hagerstown City Park. The event was open to the public and geared toward families. Young-Wolfe said more than 3,000 people attended. She said the museum, likewise, wanted to conclude the anniversary year with a special event.

Young-Wolfe said more than 200 people attended Saturday's gala. Tickets cost $150 per person. In addition to dinner and dancing to the live sounds of the Howard Burns Band, attendees bid by silent auction on certificates for services as well as art donated by artists associated with the museum.

Young-Wolfe said she had expected the event to raise upward of $50,000. As it turned out, when the total - $60,000 from ticket sales and auction receipts - was announced, donors in attendance made additional contributions to bring the total to $75,000. The money will be used for museum operations.

Spence Perry, 65, of Hagerstown, is a member of the museum's board of trustees and former president of the board. Perry said the gathering demonstrated the museum's breadth of appeal.

"It's remarkable that (so many) people would get together for an evening and contribute at the level they have contributed. The people here are Republicans, Democrats, every kind of religion, profession, trade " Perry said. "The one thing in common is the institution and thankfully, the institution is stronger than us all."

The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts was established by Hagerstown native Anna Brugh Singer and her husband, William Singer Jr., an impressionist painter. Annually, more than 65,000 people visit the museum, which is situated in City Park.

Dr. William Plavcan, president of the board of trustees, said the museum recently was awarded a grant for the second time from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Dr. John Newby, chairman of the Diamond Jubilee committee, said the endowment "speaks to the quality of the collection of the museum."

Hal and Betty Demuth, 82 and 81, of Winchester, Va., are members of the museum. They collect American art from the late 1700s to the 1880s.

"The museum covers a period of history that we like," Hal Demuth said. "We have no more talent than a ghost, but we do collect and donate art and we've become very close to the museum. I think this is marvelous."

Corrine Mackley, 70, of Hagerstown, said she supports the museum as a member of the Singer Society volunteer organization.

"I love to go out (to the museum) and walk around there and admire the beauty of the artwork. This is a lovely gift the Singer family left to us. It's like a big-city museum. And it's in a truly lovely setting," Mackley said.

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