While living with numerous personal sacrifices during a time of unprecedented social and economic uncertainty, the staff at the Grace Hudson Museum are planning to raise funds for the upkeep of Grace Carpenter Hudson’s legendary Craftsman home and the adjacent museum.

a group of people posing for the camera: Videographer Kirk Fuller speaks with Grace Hudson Museum director David Burton and Alyssa Boge, incoming Curator of Education and Exhibits, outside of the Ukiah Valley Conference Center early Wednesday morning. (Christopher D. Pugh, 2020)

© Provided by Ukiah Daily Journal
Videographer Kirk Fuller speaks with Grace Hudson Museum director David Burton and Alyssa Boge, incoming Curator of Education and Exhibits, outside of the Ukiah Valley Conference Center early Wednesday morning. (Christopher D. Pugh, 2020)

In a normal year, explains museum director David Burton, staff and the museum’s Sun House Guild would be in the final days of organizing their annual gala, which normally raises about half of the museum’s annual revenue. This year, says Burton, the Gala is going virtual.

“From the Strength of Women” is the theme for the museum’s 2020 Gala. The virtual, free event will stream live this Saturday from 6 to 7 p.m. There will be opportunities, during and after the event, to make donations to the museum.

Burton was inspired to link the Gala with the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which secured the right to vote for the majority of women in the United States. “In that spirit, we will be featuring performances, poetry and history of several influential women who have made the museum what it is today,” explains Burton. He thanks the Eversole family, who stepped up as the Gala’s lead sponsor.

“Normally, a Gala committee would convene in March to begin planning our annual September fundraiser. At that time, I was somewhat optimistic, thinking maybe we’d be out of Shelter-in-Place by September. But on top of the current restrictions, we began thinking about asking struggling businesses for auction item donations. No one had the appetite to ask folks for donations at this time.”

“With the museum still closed to the public per state guidelines, we began to accept there was no way we could organize an in-person event. We couldn’t sanction 150 people sitting in close proximity, eating and talking,” Burton continues.

Burton began looking at what other museums were doing, and not surprisingly, many were capitalizing on the lack of public visitors to grow a virtual profile, something that Burton knew would be beneficial to the museum in the short- and long-run.

“I saw this as an opportunity to plant a flag in the sand. We don’t know how long this situation Is going to last, so I decided to begin organizing virtual museum activities, and the Gala seemed like an excellent way to start.”

Burton was introduced to Kirk Fuller, whose digital media company had recently coordinated the technological side of the recent fundraiser for the Redwood Valley Grange.

“I watched the fundraiser online and then watched it seriously again on YouTube, and realized Kirk was the guy I needed to talk to. Toni Wheeler, our Guild president, made the introduction, and after putting out my idea to Kirk, he agreed to provide technical expertise, which will involve a two-camera shoot in the Ukiah Conference Center, which has the fastest Wi-Fi speeds in the neighborhood,” he smiles. The City of Ukiah is also an event sponsor.

The Conference Center will have two socially-distanced stages for entertainment and hosts, featuring the celebration of women of the past and present who have greatly contributed to the founding and success of the museum.

a couple of guys posing for a photo: Saturday’s online Gala for the Grace Hudson Museum celebrates six strong women. (Photo contributed)

© Provided by Ukiah Daily Journal
Saturday’s online Gala for the Grace Hudson Museum celebrates six strong women. (Photo contributed)

“We’ll be celebrating some of the women who were influential in the originating idea, creation and growth of our museum. The first, Clarina Nichols, is Grace Hudson’s paternal grandmother. Clarina was a Women’s Rights advocate who helped set the foundation for Women’s Suffrage. After going to college and having a family, she became a popular speaker on the Women’s Rights circuit in the 1850s, as well as joining the Temperance and Abolitionist Movements.”

The second woman honored at the gala will be Helen McCowen Carpenter – Grace Hudson’s mother. “Helen was very active in the local community. She became a school teacher and ran the photography studio for her husband, A.O. Carpenter. The more you learn about her family, the more you see where Grace got her independent spirit,” says Burton, noting that Grace Hudson will be the third historic figure honored during the Gala.

Former Ukiah Poet Laureate Theresa Whitehill will read an original poem to open the evening.

“Since last fall, Theresa had been partnering with artist Paula Gray to create an exhibit in San Francisco that featured the juxtaposition of antique prescriptions created by Gray, paired with Theresa’s original written ‘prescriptions’ for the exhibit. Unfortunately, the show was shut down due to Covid before many people had a chance to see it. Theresa is writing a poem reflecting her personal experience during Covid,” says Burton.

“I wanted her poem to be a kind of invocation – a blessing on the evening. Theresa will read the poem. We’ll sit down and have a forum and conversation about art in the time of Covid. Music will be provided by well-known local musician Joni McLeod, who will be singing a few historic Suffrage songs.”

Four other women will be honored. “Barbara Eversole was the museum’s mover and shaker who got this place built. Once it was completed, Barbara leaned on the community for additional funding, and raised enough money to build our three-gallery expansion,” says Burton. Former museum director Sherrie Smith-Ferri will also be honored. “Sherrie oversaw the intellectual development of the museum and made it a credible, scholarly and fun institution.”

Acclaimed Pomo basket weaver Corine Pearce will bring baskets, some made with harvested materials from the museum’s Wild Garden. “Corine is going to share baskets and talk about the gardens and basket-making,” Burton continues.

Finally, museum curator Karen Holmes will be honored. Holmes is retiring at the end of the year. “Karen is very much responsible for the professional look, quality and design of our shows. She has brought tremendous intellectual muscle to our exhibits, while designing installations that are beautiful to look at.”

Additionally, Burton notes, Holmes immersed herself in the Carpenter family archives. “Karen is arguably the world’s authority on the Carpenter family.”

Alyssa Boge, incoming Curator of Education and Exhibits, created a number of documentary videos of Clarina Nichols, Helen Carpenter and Grace Hudson, along with short videos on the honored guests which will be shown at the Gala. “We couldn’t have created all these videos without Alyssa, who embraced this challenge and has done a terrific job.”

The evening will conclude with pre-recorded testimonials from community members, with the goal of soliciting donations.

“We did a mailing to our database including an appeal letter and instructions on how to access the Gala and send money,” says Burton. The link to the free event can be found below, and on the Museum’s Facebook and Instagram pages. “We hope the community will watch, enjoy and send donations,” Burton says. “During the event, staffers will be on the phones, telethon-style, or people can go to the website to make a donation or just pop an envelope in the mail.”

Within a day or two following the live event, the recording of the Gala will be archived on YouTube.

“Historically, the Gala has netted us 50 percent of our operating budget. The city‘s investment takes care of infrastructure, IT, HR, payroll and staff salaries. Museum admission fees go back to the city. Every single dollar for our marketing, our programs, the gardens and our exhibitions is raised by the Sun House Guild, primarily through this fundraiser.”

“Some people have asked, ‘You’re closed, so what are you spending money on?’ The Sun House treasurer and I created an analysis of likely revenue projections. This year, we save money by not offering any exhibits, but if we’re serious about virtual exhibits, we have to purchase additional equipment. We need to pay lecturers honoraria, and we can’t ask the public to pay for virtual exhibits. We have to think two years ahead to reserve or create an exhibition – so we must start building substantial revenues for the future. Then there’s general museum housekeeping – the conservation of the paintings, taking care of the Sun House and the back-of-the-house collections which are in dire need of maintenance, cataloguing or placement into safe housing.”

“The establishment of a museum virtual program is the lemonade from Covid’s lemons. It’s forcing us to be a 21st century facility. Despite the future of the pandemic, we’re not going to let go of virtual programming. It will help us grow as an institution.”

The event begins Saturday at 6 p.m. If you log in at 5:50 there will be a “waiting room” slideshow featuring museum activity.

“We’re very excited to weave the value of the museum into the evening.  This event provides so many reasons why our museum is important to our community – highlighting the diversity of arts alongside the amazing history of the Carpenter-Hudson family,” Burton concludes.

There is no ticket or fee required to watch the gala, which can be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2W3mtVQN7s&feature=youtu.be. Contributions are welcome and encouraged and can be made here or mailed directly to the museum. The museum remains closed to the public until further notice. For more information, visit http://www.gracehudsonmuseum.org or phone (707) 467-2836 .

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