“We have expanded the definition of what it means to be an arts patron,” said Cassandra Cavness, the current president of The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts’ Junior Executive Board. “Most imagine it in only a financial capacity. However, the Junior Executive Board is showing that supporting the arts can come in many forms. For us, it’s helping to attract new audiences by lending our efforts, talents and endorsements, not just our financial support,” added Cavness.
The Junior Executive Board, or JEB for short, is made up of about 30 young professionals between the ages of 25 and 40. Its mission is two-fold: to promote membership
and build awareness of MMFA to young professionals. In addition, the group also plans and promotes a significant annual fundraising event called Art in Concert. Money raised goes to support major exhibitions and the education department of the MMFA. Another JEB coordinated event, Last Call, is an arts-focused after-hours party that gives attendees the final chance to experience a museum exhibit before it leaves MMFA.
Capturing A New Generation
MMFA is the state’s oldest fine arts museum. Founded in 1930 inside an abandoned high school building in Montgomery, it moved several times before making its home at Blount Cultural Park.
While Montgomery’s cultural landscape has changed over the years, MMFA’s original mission still exists today — to exhibit and teach art. MMFA leaders believe the JEB’s influence is helping to build a bridge for the future by connecting new audiences to the museum. “JEB members are introducing a whole new generation of museum guests and supporters to what we offer,” said Cynthia Milledge, MMFA’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations. “More than that, we look to this group for guidance. Our longtime supporters and patrons feel energized by the fact that one day, they’ll pass the baton to these dynamic, young leaders,” said Milledge.
In fact, MMFA’s current board of trustees thought so highly of JEB members, they asked several of them to sit in on the interview process for the museum’s new director. Milledge says the perspective of the younger generation was important to them. As soon as the new Director Angie Dodson came on board, she was immediately impressed by what she saw. “I found myself struck by their capacity and commitment as arts patrons and by the ways that their varied life experiences mirror those of the public who put their trust in us,” said Dodson. “These qualities position us to deliver on the promises of the museum’s mission of service to our community now and for the decades to come as these young professionals continue to spread their roots and wings.”
Shaping The Future Of Arts In MGM
Each year, the JEB invites new members to join through a competitive application process. Terms are one year, but many board members are so passionate about the work, they continue to serve year after year. “Since joining the board, I have experienced what a rich and vibrant arts community Montgomery has,” said Kate Bartlett, a board member since 2013. “We are so lucky to have the wonderful and free exhibits, events and programs at MMFA.”
Bartlett and Cavness both say their time with the JEB has afforded them the opportunity to get involved with other arts organizations in the city, inspiring their commitment to MMFA and Montgomery as a whole. “We have come to recognize the important role the arts play in helping to shape our city,” said Cavness. “It’s an honor to be a part of it.”