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City’s oldest art museum to hold fundraiser

The International Museum of Art is asking for support from art aficionados and corporate sponsors to help address the museum’s ongoing financial challenges – the most recent of which is the need to repair the building’s elevator.

Artists from across the city have put together an event, “Elevate Your Art,” to help the privately run museum raise the estimated $30,000 needed for the repairs to its building at 1211 Montana.

The event will offer affordably priced small works of art for sale as an innovative way to raise money. Running from 1 to 5 p.m. May 7, “Elevate Your Art” will also be a fun filled day that will bring families together as they work to support a worthy cause.

“We felt that scheduling the event to proceed Mother’s Day weekend will give buyers the opportunity to purchase a special gift for the ladies in their lives at a very affordable price,” artist Judy Hampton says.

Several months ago, the museum’s governing board was advised that an inspection by the state of Texas found that the building’s elevator was inoperable. The estimated cost for repairs required by state law is $30,000.

Although the city of El Paso owns the museum building, it is not responsible for capital improvements and repairs.

The building was originally home to the El Paso Museum of Art. When EPMA relocated to Downtown, the city announced its intent to subdivide the historic building into office spaces.

In order to make sure that the building would remain a museum, in early 2000, the museum’s governing board signed a lease contract with the city and agreed to cover the cost of building maintenance as well as the annual operating expenses.

Since then, the museum’s governing board has undertaken major renovations to the old building, including repairs to the roof, the air conditioning and heating systems, and some emergency repairs to the elevator.

These expenses have all but depleted their reserve funds.

Highlights of the “Elevate Your Art” event include punch and finger food, live music by Tim Thompson and the Desert Diamonds Barbershop Quartet. Six Guns and Shady Ladies will lend a bit of historic atmosphere.

Artists Candy Mayer, Rachel Murphree and Judy Hampton will give a painting demonstration. Visitors may even choose to have their portrait drawn in charcoal by Manny Guerra or in pastel by Barry Martin. Carmen Navar will offer a variety of youth art activities.

Numbering in the hundreds, the framed works have been created by members of local art groups. The 8 inch by 10 inch paintings will be sold via a silent auction.

Opening bids for the paintings begin at $35. Artwork not sold at the event will be available for purchase through the museum gift shop.

The International Museum of Art is best known for outstanding exhibitions of local artwork. The stately building has been an iconic presence in the city for more than a century.

Designed by renowned Southwest architect Henry Trost and constructed by Hewitt and Sons in 1908 at an estimated cost of $50,000, the mansion that banker William Ward Turney built for his bride, Iva, served as the center of social and cultural activities in El Paso for than three decades.

Following Turney’s death in 1939, the house eventually became the first permanent home of the International Museum and Art Center.

Although not officially chartered until 1932, the IMAC traces its history back to exhibitions mounted in the early 1900’s by the Women’s Club of El Paso. When the Turney mansion went up for sale in 1940, the club’s board realized the building would be the perfect location to accommodate their growing collection of art and local memorabilia.

Money earned through fundraising activities plus a gift from Turney made it possible for the IMAC to purchase the building, and the museum board accepted the deed to the property in 1947.

The city granted the IMAC the right to use and own the building for museum purposes only, and the grounds were to be maintained by the city.

By the late 1980’s it became apparent that the El Paso Museum of Art had outgrown the Montana location. Taking advantage of tax increment funds, the museum association voted to purchase and renovate the existing Greyhound Bus Terminal and move the El Paso Museum of Art to its current location in Downtown.

In 2002, the International Association for the Visual Arts entered into a lease agreement with the City of El Paso, and the building at 1211 Montana once again became known as the International Museum of Art.