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50 Years of Celebration

CAM Fund-raising Gala
Sat., Sept. 22nd • 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Cameron Art Museum
3201 S. 17th St.
$150 • www.cameronartmuseum.com

SPACES OF THE PAST: One of CAM’s exhibits opening at the gala will recreate spaces where past ILM artists made their works come to life—such as Elisabeth Chant’s wine cellar on Cottage Lane. Courtesy photo

The mere mention of the word “gala” seems to trigger dreamy visions of bespoke suits and satin dresses merrily waltzing across a ballroom floor. For centuries, the gala has brought communities together for a festive occasion if only for the purpose of celebration. As Cameron Art Museum has much to cheers to this month, it’s only fitting that the museum will hold their own soirée to commemorate two milestones: their 50th anniversary as an institution and a decade in its current building.

CAM’s only fund-raising event of the year will take place Saturday, September 22nd, to celebrate their longevity. They have a special evening of music, food, a silent auction and series of engaging exhibitions that feature cornerstones of both international and local art planned for guests. While CAM’s fund-raising gala may be a black-tie affair, the event breathes grassroots involvement from every orifice.

After months of uncertainty, it’s now been a year since Cameron Art Museum announced Anne Brennan as its new director. The Cape Fear community welcomed Brennan with enthusiasm, and vice versa. Still, the zeal has not worn off from either side. The museum remained extremely busy for 2012, hosting new exhibitions, family events and city-engaging installations, all while making sure everyone continues to be the life force behind CAM’s continued success.

“We are ever-aware of the very strong shoulders upon which we stand,” Brennan says. “The sweetness of this true community effort washes over [this milestone] and is inspiring and humbling.”

It was 1962 when the 158-year-old Masonic Lodge at 2nd and Orange streets first opened its doors as St. John’s Art Gallery. Led by a group of dedicated artists and volunteers, the event solidified the community’s desire to present artworks and art instruction to the public. In 1974 the established institution received accreditation by the American Association of Museums.

In 2002 St. John’s moved into its new, 40,000-square-foot building and its 9-and-a-half-acre Pyramid Park campus off South 17th Street and Independence Boulevard. Renamed the Cameron Art Museum, it’s evolved into a thriving, cultural gathering place and the premier art museum of eastern North Carolina.

“People are [still] amazed at the facilities and everything we have going on here,” Kim Kelly, communications manager at CAM, says. “We’re constantly getting volunteers that are new to the area, and they love being able to come into the community through our doorway.”

The gala will mark the openings of two new exhibitions in both wings of the museum. In the Brown Wing, “The Transformative Power of Friendship” will tell the personal story of three collectors, each of whom are generously lending their possessions for the gala. The history will be told behind color etchings by impressionist Mary Cassatt, Japanese woodblock prints by Edo Period artists Hiroshige and Kunisada II, and 20th century modernist prints featuring, among others, the works of Richard Diebenkorn, Helen Frankenthaler, Brice Marden and Gerhard Richter.

To help patrons better explore the cultural importance of Japanese woodblock prints, there will be a theatrical reawakening of the art’s historical setting, provided by a vignette of actors who will perform flower-arranging, Japanese-instrument playing, and other acts to further transport guests into the backstory of this particular collection. According to Brennan, going the extra mile with their exhibitions “gives CAM an opportunity to work with that much more talent in the area.”

In the Hughes Wing, “From Gatehouse to Winehouse: Inside the Artist’s Workplace” will recreate three renowned Wilmington artists’ studio spaces. Folks will reveil in a tiny gatehouse where Minnie Evans drew pictures, a wine cellar where Elisabeth Chant taught classes and an urban apartment where Claude Howell held open salon.

Preparation for the exhibition was a huge undertaking, with lots of tedious research and building to make sure the spaces were accurate representations, from the floorboards to the wainscoting. This project employed animators, lighting and set-designers, as well as apprentices from YouthBuild of Wilmington Housing Authority and Kids Making It of Wilmington.

For the gala’s auction, CAM worked with sister institutions to offer exciting across-the-state packages for tours to view art at museums, which also include hotel stays in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Asheville, Charlotte, Chapel Hill and Raleigh. Other items being auctioned are original artwork by CAM’s instructors and a chance to name a character in a new Clyde Edgerton book.

All of the night’s events will be accompanied by the live music of Jack Jack 180 in the reception hall and local jazz favorites The Doug Irving Trio featuring Benny Hill in the courtyard.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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