The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Focus on the Arts

April 29, 2012

Board members share passion for arts

John K. Duggan Jr. has an abiding love for the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art.

As the museum celebrates its 36th anniversary this year, Duggan said it has been an honor and a privilege to have served on the board of trustees for nearly all of those years.

Carrying on a tradition

A board of trustees member for 32 years, he is carrying on a tradition begun by his father, John Duggan Sr., a founding member of the museum.

“After my father got sick and eventually passed away in 1980, I took his place on the board and have been here since,” Duggan said.

Duggan, who is a retired PNC executive and resides in Pittsburgh, became board president in 2009, and works closely with the 36 other members who comprise the group.

When asked who handles board meetings when he is absent, he said no one because he has never missed a session.

But should the occasion arise that he would miss a meeting, Vice President Ann Benzel of Altoona would take charge.

Duggan said meetings of the trustees are always well-attended.

“We never have trouble getting a quorum,” he said.

“Like most boards in which I have served, the trustees have a singular purpose in taking on fiduciary responsibility in overseeing the organization.”

Shared vision

Through a shared vision, a constancy of purpose, a commitment to excellence and a passion for the arts, the museum has established a cultural legacy for the people of southwestern Pennsylvania and for generations to come.

SAMA’s four museums – Altoona, Johnstown, Ligonier Valley and Loretto – continue to remain open to the public free of charge.

Through the years, the board has achieved the development of outstanding art exhibitions, initiated first-rate art education programs, as well as development of an outstanding museum satellite system and the establishment of an enviable permanent collection.

SAMA has grown to become an accredited facility through the American Association of Museums, and is considered to be one of the finest regional museums in the state.

4,000 works of art

The museum has grown and enhanced its permanent collection to more than 4,000 works of art.

“The accreditation process was rigid and tedious and it forced us to revisit our strategic internal procedures,” Duggan said.

He said that by going through the process of accreditation, the board knew it would make the museum a better facility.

However, when the goal was achieved, Duggan said it was one that “was nearly unheard of for a small, rural museum like SAMA.”

Funding challenges

Like most not-for-profit organizations, the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art is facing funding challenges.

“We look to improve the museum’s cash flow,” Duggan said.

“During this difficult economic time, sources of funding are drying up.”

However, the board will continue to address the needs for collection management to improve facilities, enlarge and enhance the permanent collection and serve the general public.

Benzel, who serves on the finance and executive committees, is proud that the museum continues to fulfill its mission to preserve, exhibit and advance American art.

“We want to make art accessible to people from all walks of life,” Benzel said.

Award-winning programs

She spoke highly of SAMA’s award-winning arts in education programs and being recognized for its steadfast commitment to furthering arts education within the southwestern and central Pennsylvania regions.

Museum programming includes artist residencies, arts-in-education classroom presentations, exhibitions of student art, preschool and in-service programs and arts-for-healing. 

“Without our education programs, many students may never be exposed to fine arts if we didn’t take it to them,” Benzel said.

She used herself as an example, by saying being born and raised in Barnesboro would have presented a challenge to being exposed to fine art if it were not for SAMA.

“My father was a hardworking coal miner, yet the museum opened a new world for me and sparked my interest in art,” she said.

“I eventually became a volunteer.”

The board meets once each quarter at the Loretto facility.

Duggan said that when a board opening does occur, the search focuses on people within the community who may have a close association with one of the four museums.

“Part of the responsibility of each board member focuses on fundraising, and who better to do that than people closely associated with their local museum?” he said.

“We look for representatives who are interested in continuing the stewardship of the facilities in those geographic regions we serve.”

President’s responsibilities

As board president, Duggan’s responsibilities include setting meeting agendas, strategic planning and dealing with finances.

“We are fortunate to have a strong leadership team in place, which is headed by Executive Director Gary Moyer,” said Duggan.

“He has been both an effective leader and an efficient manager.”

Duggan said with the board of trustees working in concert with its management team, it is in a position to address challenges and capitalize on opportunities as they arise.

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