In 2000 and 2006, the Richard M. Ross Art Museum at Ohio Wesleyan University received major gifts from Elizabeth M. Ross to help establish the museum, named in memory of her husband, and then endow its directorship.
As the museum prepares to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its 2002 opening, another member of the Ross family – daughter and philanthropist Sarah “Sally” Ross Soter of Palm Beach, Florida – is contributing $1.25 million to the facility to create the William and Sarah Ross Soter Endowment. It will help to establish the museum’s first full-time curator of collections position.
“Sally Soter is a visionary whose family already has established an enduring legacy at the Ross Art Museum at Ohio Wesleyan,” said President Rock Jones, Ph.D. “This latest gift will help the museum connect more even broadly with the campus and community as it continues to expand its standing and stature in the museum world.”
Erin Fletcher, museum director, says the person who fills the curator role will oversee engagement, outreach, and growth of the museum’s permanent teaching collection, which currently includes more than 2,500 items.
“This is an exciting moment in the history of the Ross Art Museum,” Fletcher said, “I am grateful that Sally is a generous and insightful donor who truly understands the value of this position right now. The permanent teaching collection is an incredible resource for the faculty, staff, and students at Ohio Wesleyan as well as the broader community. A full-time curator will ensure it continues to inspire and serve others, which is one of our top strategic priorities.”
Fletcher said the curator, whom she expects to hire for fall 2023, will work closely with OWU faculty, artists, and community members on exhibits and programming, teaching, and research opportunities. “The person also will ensure that appropriate standards of care are met so that the collection can be preserved in perpetuity,” she said.
Sally Ross Soter is an emeriti member of the Ross Art Museum’s national board of advisers and was the inspiration for the “Women Behind the Lens” photography exhibit displayed at the museum earlier this fall. (A sister exhibit supported by Soter remains on display at the Columbus Museum of Art through May 1, 2022.) She previously contributed $175,000 to the Ross to support improvements to the historic building, and her latest $1.25 million gift will be considered the kick-off contribution for a 20-month fundraising initiative the museum will launch in spring 2022.
Of the most recent gift, Soter says: “We are very happy to help the museum continue to grow. I am delighted to build on a legacy that honors both my father and my mother.”
In addition to the Soter gift, the Ross this year also was one of 15 organizations nationwide selected to receive a grant from the New York City-based Andrea Frank Foundation. The Ross received $25,000 from the nonprofit foundation. OWU’s art museum also earned a 2021 Inspire! Grants for Small Museums award for $20,185 from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services. The Inspire award will help the museum to increase storage capacity and conditions for artwork in its permanent collection and organize the collection by size, medium, and artist to make it more accessible for academic use.
When Ohio Wesleyan classes are in session, the Ross is open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is handicap-accessible and admission is always free. Call (740) 368-3606 or visit www.owu.edu/ross for more information. To learn more about the museum’s upcoming fundraising initiative, email firstname.lastname@example.org to subscribe to its electronic newsletter.
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