The Board of Directors of the Arna Bontemps African American Museum is kicking off a fundraiser/membership campaign to support the implementation of the organization’s fund development goal in assuring that the Museum continues the legacy for future years to come. Arna Wendell Bontemps established a legacy of some forty published works for adults, juveniles and children including histories, fiction, folklore and biographies. Selected works were greatly influenced by his Alexandria/Central Louisiana cultural and social roots. He is a symbol of our past, present and future.
With critical cuts in state and local funding, expected revenue for Museum operations is limited and, in some instances, no longer available. Therefore, the Museum is in financial crisis.
In addition to offering a permanent exhibit on the life and works of Arna Bontemps, the foundation has developed a number of programs and activities designed to help fulfill its mission and to extend the reach of the organization beyond its physical location. Chief among these activities are the Arna Bontemps African American Heritage Quiz Bowl for 3rd-12th grade students, the Arna Bontemps Junior Writers Guild for middle and high school students, a jazz residency for middle and high school students and Jazz on the River, a concert and picnic for general family audiences, Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Friends and Community. The organization has also sponsored major symposia on the life and work of Arna Bontemps and has presented well-received public readings of major writers such as best-selling novelists Ernest Gaines, Lalita Tademy and Ernest Hill and Louisiana Poet Laureate Brenda Marie Osbey, among many others. In 2004, “Hope”, an original composition based on Bontemps’ original poem, was produced and presented in partnership with the Arts Council of Central Louisiana and the Rapides Symphony with the support of a prestigious Continental Harmony grant awarded by the American Composers Forum.
As Mayor Jacques Roy has observed, “The Arna Bontemps African American Museum provides a one-of-a-kind experience unique to Alexandria and has a national appeal and patronage”. At the August 2009 annual meeting, the Association of African American Museums, in recognition of the Arna Bontemps African American Museum, presented the Museum Director Gwendolyn Y. Elmore the life-time achievement award; the State of Louisiana, The 2009 Cultural Leader Award; the Offices of the Mayors of Alexandria and Pineville, the lifetime achievement award; in 2009, the Creole Heritage Center, the Creole People’s Award. Visits to the website have been documented at 2,000 per month, 24,000 per year. This is in addition to on-site visits. The Museum is a state, regional, national and international tourist destination.
The needs of our area with respect to cultural programming remain the same as those outlined in the Rapides Foundation’s Arts and Cultural Assessment Report. That report concluded that “a broad strategy (for improving local cultural offerings) must build upon the diversity of types of organizations and activities while it also recognizes the diversity of its consumers.” 84% of those surveyed through the Foundation assessment agreed that “providing opportunities for people of all ages to learn about the arts and culture is important to me.” Dr. Haywood Joiner, Jr., Chair of the Museum Board of Directors, believes that the Arna Bontemps African American Museum provides opportunities to meet these needs.
Support the Arna Bontemps African American Museum, an Alexandria institution with national appeal by making your tax-deductible contribution payable to the Arna Bontemps African American Museum and mail to the Museum at 1327 Third Street, Alexandria, LA 71301. For more information, visit www.arnabontempsmuseum.com.