Advanced Search | Search A!:
Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

Artful Giving: William King Museum, Abingdon, Va.

Visitors to William King Museum admire a large painting by Bristol artist Val Lyle in October 2009 (Jeffrey Stoner Photography). Inset right: WKM Director of Development Emily Woolwine.
Visitors to William King Museum admire a large painting by Bristol artist Val Lyle in October 2009 (Jeffrey Stoner Photography). Inset right: WKM Director of Development Emily Woolwine.


William King's Director of Development Emily Woolwine says:

The economic downturn has impacted William King Museum (WKM) as it has all non-profit institutions. However, we are at a disadvantage compared to other arts organizations in the region in the sense that WKM doesn't have as "tangible" a product to sell as theaters or musical organizations.

WKM offers three exhibitions at any time — at least one focusing on some aspect of regional culture — and brings in significant traveling exhibits that showcase world art.

Art museums probably have a smaller number of passionate devotees, especially outside of major metropolitan areas, so that narrows the fundraising base as well. On the positive side, WKM does have several very generous major donors who help to keep the museum afloat. There are many levels of membership and all contributions are very welcome.


It's a truism that arts funding is the first to be cut in economic downturns, and that has been the case the last two years. WKM received significant funding from Virginia state legislature for many years, but all non-profit arts organizations were cut out of the state budget two years ago. On top of that, funding from the Virginia Commission for the Arts has been cut as well. However, the Town of Abingdon and Washington County, Va., continue to be very supportive of the museum even in these challenging economic times.

We have had to reduce full- and part-time staff by about 25% and have been forced to reduce the overall budget by a similar percentage. However, the exhibits this year have not suffered. The three exhibits currently at the museum or opening in December may be the finest trio of exhibits that WKM has ever had: "From These Hills: Contemporary Art in the Southern Appalachian Highlands," the museum's biennial exhibition, with a guest curator; "Buying Time: Clocks Along the Great Road, 1790-1870," curated by the museum; and "Matisse, Picasso and Modern Art in Paris," on loan from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the University of Virginia.

The most severe programming cuts have been in the educational programs. The primary reason for that is that the public school systems in the region have cut back on field trips and supplementary activities, such as taking students to an art museum.

We are increasing our efforts to gain funding from grants, as are all arts organizations. We are mounting an end-of-the-year membership campaign. We have stepped up our marketing and outreach activities to make the exhibits and other programs at WKM more visible to the community. We have for the first time initiated a "suggested admission" charge, which is bringing in funds.


WKM has a wonderful gift shop, The Looking Glass, where there are fine crafts, jewelry, books, art-related objects and an array of children's toys and games for sale. There are many unique Christmas presents to be purchased.

Volunteers with various skills are always needed. Volunteers cover the information desk, help with clerical tasks, aid with children's activities, and give guided tours at the Fields-Penn 1860 House Museum.

Non-profit arts organizations always need public support of any type. We hope with the opening of the "Matisse, Picasso and Modern Art in Paris" exhibit (December 11, 2009) that art lovers in the region will put WKM on their holiday lists of activities. The community can help by visiting the winter exhibits at William King Museum as well as the Field-Penn 1860 House Museum, managed by William King.


To learn more about the museum or make contributions, e-mail or visit

Why Local Businesses Support the Arts
— View a slide show of the Abingdon Gallery Hop held in October 2009.