ARCHIVED  March 25, 2011

Masks make museum’s work possible

FORT COLLINS – All nonprofits have to generate income, but the Fort Collins Museum of Art gets the whole community involved in its major fundraiser.

So involved that professional artists and amateurs alike end up creating works of their own that raise one-third of the museum’s annual operating costs through the Masks event.

Masks began eight years ago and is now a highly anticipated yearly event, according to Marianne Lorenz, executive director of the Fort Collins Museum of Art, formerly known as the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Every year, the museum distributes 150 plain clay masks to artists, non-artists, and students to decorate however they like. The Masks are then displayed in a month-long exhibition and silent auction.

Fifteen of the Masks are featured during a Gala live auction held near the end of the exhibition. The proceeds from both auctions go toward the museum’s operating costs, as do profits from sales of tickets to the gala. This year’s gala will take place April 30 at the Masonic Temple in Fort Collins, with an individual ticket price of $100. Other revenue is also generated by sponsorships of certain Masks.

Masks have been purchased for as much as $4,000 in the past, Lorenz said, but bids have been more modest since the economic downturn.

“We are slowly inching our way back to pre-2007 levels,” Lorenz said. “We are very hopeful that 2011 will see significant increases in the amount of money raised during Masks.”

Despite the downturn in profits, Masks has enabled the museum to put on some impressive shows, including a just completed exhibition of Ansel Adams photographs that drew 8,300 visitors. The work of other artists recently shown include the Western paintings of Michael Gregory and the fantastic glass objects of William Morris.

Shows by artists as well known as Adams are immensely expensive, according to Lorenz, but Masks provides a good financial base for big-name shows, which can, in turn, help garner more attention for the Masks show and sale.

“We have a larger base of people who know who we are, what we want to accomplish for the community and a proven track record of exhibitions that will draw larger numbers, she said. “So hopefully, more people will be interested in helping us with this major fundraiser by purchasing masks and attending the Gala.”

Year-long process

The process that leads up to the Masks event is a lengthy one, beginning even before the current year’s event is complete, according to the museum’s website.

Members of the museum get first priority when it comes to receiving their masks to decorate, then non-members who request one. When the masks are finished, they become property of the museum for the impending exhibition.

Many artists, such as Wendy Franzen, participate annually, designing a new mask every year.

“What I like about the Masks fundraiser is that it has become a community-wide event,´ said Franzen, who has been contributing her work since the first event in 2003. “The show includes masks that have been made by a cross section of our city, including students and accomplished artists.”

Franzen also credits the Masks fundraiser with an increased awareness of the arts in Fort Collins because designers come from such a large cross-section of the community. That awareness means a lot to local artists.

“As an artist, it is important to have a museum in my town, and this event gives artists a chance to give back to MOA and support its mission,” she said.

Franzen was even inspired by the Masks event to go back to school, and is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at Colorado State University.

“I enjoyed making the masks so much that I began to re-examine my own role in the arts,” she said.

Franzen has designed some of the fundraiser’s most beautiful Masks over the years, according to Lorenz. The Masks are decorated in a variety of ways, from beadwork to glass, giving the exhibition another element of diversity.

Masks by local students will be featured in their own room in the museum, sponsored by the Bohemian Foundation. Students from Rocky Mountain, Poudre, Fort Collins and Fossil Ridge high schools, as well as from Colorado State University, will have masks in the show, and museum patrons will be able to bid on the student works along with all the others.

The exhibition opens April 1 and will be open to the public through May 6. Admission for nonmembers is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors 65 or older, $6 for students, and $5 for children ages 7-18. Children under 6 and members of the museum are admitted for free. For more information about Masks and the April 30 gala, visit the Fort Collins Museum of Art at www.fcmoa.org.

FORT COLLINS – All nonprofits have to generate income, but the Fort Collins Museum of Art gets the whole community involved in its major fundraiser.

So involved that professional artists and amateurs alike end up creating works of their own that raise one-third of the museum’s annual operating costs through the Masks event.

Masks began eight years ago and is now a highly anticipated yearly event, according to Marianne Lorenz, executive director of the Fort Collins Museum of Art, formerly known as the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Every year, the museum distributes 150 plain clay masks to artists, non-artists,…

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