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Island Museum of Art starts the new year with a new name and a new mission

The Island Museum of Art starts the new year with a new name and a new mission.

The name: Its parent organization is now the San Juan Islands Museum of Art and Sculpture Park, or IMA -- the result of the merger of Westcott Bay Institute for Art & Nature, which operated the museum and Westcott Bay Sculpture Park; and the Visual Arts Museum of San Juan County, which had proposed building an accredited art museum in the San Juans.

The immediate mission: To find a new museum site. The museum moved Dec. 31 out of the former Spring Tree Restaurant building, owned by David and Cloud McCauley, who had allowed the museum free use of the space for the last couple of years.

Executive Director Victoria Compton said the museum hopes to have temporary exhibits in empty retail spaces throughout town until a permanent site is acquired.

“As we move into the most critical part of our strategic plan to build a visual arts museum, we’re also moving to a new office,” Compton said.

“Every penny that we raise will go toward building costs and to fund our established educational and outreach programs. We’ve cut operations costs to a minimum in order to preserve those programs, the exhibitions at the Sculpture Park and to save for our exciting building project. In addition, we’re planning exhibits in empty retail spaces in town, which we hope will benefit the community at large while it helps to keep the islands’ visual arts scene alive and well.”

IMA’s office has moved to 50 Malcolm St., No. 504, in the Surina Business Park. The telephone number is 370-5050.

Compton and IMA co-president Pam Nichols wrote in a newsletter to members that IMA remains "faithful to the previous organizations’ core missions," but as a combined entity is better positioned to serve San Juan County residents.

"We’ll continue to create and present Family Art Days, Art As A Voice Lecture Series, workshops for adults, and outreach programs to the schools," they wrote. "And, of course, the Westcott Bay Sculpture Park will continue to be the 'crowning jewel' of the organization."

Nichols added, "Our goal to build an accreditation-eligible visual arts museum in Friday Harbor is undiminished and the board will focus on moving that vision forward."

IMA's forebears announced their intention in July to merge and create a new organization under a new name.

The merger means both organizations will work together to build an accredited county arts museum, preferably in Friday Harbor. Proponents say an accredited arts museum could attract traveling art and cultural exhibits from major metropolitan museums. This would allow islanders to take advantage of arts opportunities provided elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest, they say.

Westcott Bay Institute founded Westcott Bay Sculpture Park in Roche Harbor and the Island Museum of Art. The Visual Arts Museum had long proposed building an accredited arts museum in Friday Harbor. It has organized arts presentations in Friday Harbor, established a relationship with The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and initiated discussions with county officials regarding locating a museum within a future county administration building.

For seven months prior to July, Westcott Bay Institute and Visual Arts Museum discussed ways in which they could better serve the community by working together. In a retreat held July 13, the boards of the two organizations agreed to a full merger effective Jan. 1 and to begin partnering immediately. The two groups shared a booth at the San Juan County Fair Aug. 13-16 and will continue with all their planned educational programs, exhibitions, lectures and shows.

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