Fundraising campaign aims to enhance Abingdon museum

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The William King Museum of Art in Abingdon is housed in a former
school building. Courtesy William King Museum of Art

The goal of the William King Museum of Art’s $5 million fundraising campaign is not only to enhance the facility but also to make the museum’s 20-acre Abingdon campus more accessible and inviting.

The “Masterwork in Progress” campaign has raised approximately $1.3 million. That includes an $86,500 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, which will go toward a permanent exhibit of regional decorative arts opening Dec. 3.

This will be the museum’s first renovation in 25 years. Built in 1913 as a school building, William King is the only Virginia museum west of Roanoke accredited by the American Association of Museums.

To help with accessibility, the museum will create a new entrance on the east side of the building that “will go into the first floor where the elevators are located,” says Director Betsy K. White.

Plans are also in the works to extend the museum’s VanGogh Outreach program, which has served only second-graders. The program focuses on the study of cultures in areas such as China, Egypt and Ancient Rome. “Our students don’t have a lot of exposure to other cultures here,” White says.

The museum will expand the program to third-graders in the Virginia counties it already serves. “We are also going to add counties that border Virginia in Tennessee, West Virginia and Kentucky,” White says, adding the museum also will create a new program, called Heritage Express, for fourth-graders, focusing on their own cultural heritage.

The museum already has received a $500,000 federal grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission for its new Center for Studio Art & Education, which will be housed in the former Washington County office building adjacent to the museum. A $250,000 grant from the Educational Foundation of America, the town of Abingdon and private individual donors also is  targeted for the new center.

The center will house artists and artisan's studios as well as a digital craft lab for developing art centered around the creative economy. “We want to help students make a living out of art,” White says. “We are trying to be a bigger asset for the region’s creative economy and make this a bigger attraction for the cultural tourist.”

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