A! Magazine for the Arts

William King Museum Planning to Move

August 25, 2010

ABINGDON, VA -- At a board meeting on July 20, 2010, a quorum of the Board of Trustees of William King Museum voted unanimously to begin the process of selling the museum complex along with the 20-acre property located at 415 Academy Drive in Abingdon, and to explore and evaluate potential relocation sites in the area.

Given the current state of the economy and the decline in government, foundation, and private funding, the Board made the decision to explore relocating the museum to a more accessible, cost-efficient and visible location.

Board President Steve Morris is excited about the move. "Our primary purpose is to serve the public," he says. "To do so, sometimes you need to seek solutions, often multifaceted and complex, requiring us to think outside the box."

"The Board is committed to the future of William King Museum," Board Vice-President, Carol Jones, states, "and eager to explore ways in which the museum can fulfill its mission of bringing rotating exhibits of works of art from around the nation and the world to our diverse audience, showcasing and preserving our cultural heritage, using art as a tool to educate both children and adults and enrich lives, and serving as a museum showcase for our regional artists."

Executive Director Marcy Miller strongly supports the Board's decisions. She says, "I believe the move will serve to rejuvenate William King Museum, and I envision the opportunity to offer enhanced cultural, artistic and educational services to our community, resulting in a positive effect for the town of Abingdon and for the citizens of southwest Virginia."

The Museum is a Partner of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts, as well as an accredited member of the American Association of Museums, the Virginia Association of Museums and the Southeastern Museums Conference.

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Museum director looking at options


*** Published: August 03, 2010 in the Bristol Herald Courier. ***

ABINGDON, Va. -- Marcy Miller, executive director of the William King Museum, has identified three potential sites for a new museum facility.

The first is the Barter Green, the grassy area across Main Street from the Barter Theatre.

The second is beside Heartwood, the regional artisan center under construction on the campus of Virginia Highlands Community College, possibly in conjunction with some other new college facility.

Third, the museum board might look south for a site, at property behind the Barter reen that would help tie in Abingdon's existing arts venues with the town's budding arts and cultural district on Park Street.

"I don't think we have a main one," Miller said of the site proposals. "We're really looking at all the options right now."

The museum's board decided in a July 20 meeting to sell the current facility, after years of considering plans to expand and revitalize its arts campus on Academy Drive and make it more accessible to Main Street.

Earlier this year the board decided to scrap plans for a new entrance, grounds and building improvements, and artisan studios because of financial considerations, particularly the low appraisal value compared with the cost of the proposed project.

The museum board then considered renovating the soon-to-be-vacated county office space adjacent to the building instead of building a new artisans' courtyard before ultimately deciding to sell the building and start from scratch.

"They're all for the same purpose, and that purpose is to enhance the vibrancy of the museum, our programming, and to make a greater economic impact," Miller said of the succession of plans.

"I think this is definite," she said of the decision to sell the museum and move. "I truly believe this is the way it's going to go. We have a lot of new board members, and they're very excited about this."

Miller said the 43,000 square feet the museum will have at its current site when the county building is empty is just too much to maintain. The added cost of taking care of the 20-acre grounds, which the county maintains now, also would present a challenge.

"It's a lot more than we need and than we can fund," she said, explaining that 20,000 square feet of well-designed space could actually allow for more galleries, more classroom space, studios and other museum facilities.

"The recession is a big part of it, unfortunately," she said of the museum's decision to downsize, pointing to huge cuts in state funding over the years and the revelation that now, even private foundation funding has begun to dry up.

If the new museum were to go on the Barter green, she said, it would allow for some shared facilities, such as a common ticket sales area, gift shop and lecture room. It also would allow for a collaborative funding request - the kind more easily granted in a tough economy where every funding agency is looking to get the most bang for its buck.

Richard Rose, producing artistic director for the Barter Theatre, said the Barter would welcome the museum locating on the Green if that's what the museum board decides.

"We would be excited about any collaboration that we would have with them and any way we can make the arts community stronger," Rose said. "If that's their decision and that's what they want to do, we would definitely be supportive, and we would definitely be collaborative."

Virginia Highlands Community College was not ready to comment Tuesday on the idea of locating the museum there, spokeswoman Anne Dunham said.

Miller said the William King Museum is asking $2.3 million for its hilltop complex above Main Street, which was built as a high school in 1913.

While she said no formal offers have been made, there's talk of prospective buyers and prospective uses for the building and 20-acre grounds, ranging from retirement housing or living quarters for medical residents to a corporate headquarters.

In any case, she said, the building has "a very desirable location" with a stunning view overlooking the town.

She said the sale of the building will pay off the museum's debts and fund the start of construction, though the board also would seek funding from such agencies as the Appalachian Regional Commission, Virginia Tobacco Commission, and USDA Rural Development program, as well as a private fundraising campaign.