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Volume 24, Number 5 — May 2017

Connections: VMFA Statewide Partners

Betsy White, former executive director of William King, recalls the assistance VMFA provided to the arts center (Photo by Hank Daniel).
Betsy White, former executive director of William King, recalls the assistance VMFA provided to the arts center (Photo by Hank Daniel).

By ANGELA WAMPLER | A! MAGAZINE FOR THE ARTS | December 28, 2009

In the 1980s, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) phased out the Artmobile and initiated a ground-breaking program to lend works from the collection directly to art facilities across the state. Exhibitions now travel to Statewide Partners (previously called "Affiliates") such as Abingdon's William King Museum.

Today, the VMFA is the nation's premier statewide art network, second only to the Smithsonian Institution in its outreach. The statewide program is enhanced with artist workshops, lectures, technical support, and the largest lending library of audiovisuals of any museum in the country.

Partners also can take advantage of VMFA's Arts Management Service, featuring on-site staff consultations, and the resources of other state, regional and national arts agencies regarding practical matters such as fund-raising, membership, special event coordination, publicity, conservation, and security.

At the time of this printing, local VMFA Partners include Abingdon High School, Arts Alliance Mountain Empire, Appalachian Children's Theatre, Charles Harris Library, Historic Crab Orchard Museum, Lincoln Theatre, Pro-Art, Southwest Virginia Community College, Virginia Intermont College, and William King Museum.

One year ago, Betsy White retired as executive director of the William King. Looking back to WKM's beginnings, she recalls, "The VMFA provided an enormous amount of technical assistance to us, literally opening the doors to their staff in any department we needed, from their lighting expert who designed and oversaw the gallery lighting, to their security staff who advised on our security and environmental systems, to their administrative staff who helped us with organizational planning. Our own architectural team, headed by Harry McKinney, went to Richmond to meet with VMFA staff who reviewed our construction documents, then they came to Abingdon for another review. All this was at no cost to us."

She continues, "To top it all, when the grand opening for William King was held in March 1992, around 10 members of the VFMA staff came out here for that, including Katharine Lee, who was the new VMFA executive director."

White concludes, "To summarize, the VMFA was key in the creation of WKM as a museum — high-security and public education oriented — facility. I had that particular vision for it from the get-go, and they responded with enthusiasm knowing that a high-security gallery would benefit Southwest Virginia."

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