A gala planned in April is one of several efforts to help the Gilbert Historical Museum survive in years to come. The “Romancing the West” benefit gala on April 18 is the first of what museum director Kayla Kolar said is a proposed annual fundraising event.
The event will be at the Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery of Contemporary Western and Native American Art in Chandler. The Basha family is allowing the Historical Museum to use the facility free of charge and to collect 100 percent of proceeds from ticket sales.
The plan is to hold a similar gala event annually, in different locations.
“We are trying to have special events and be creative in the way that we raise money, so we can keep our doors open,” Kolar said. “We’ve got to be more self-sufficient. We’ve got to continue trying to gain more public support.”
Kolar said the museum is the “best kept secret in Gilbert” that is important for newcomers drawn to the area’s small-town feel as to long-time residents.
The nonprofit museum will receive $50,000 a year for the next two years as the remainder of a five-year town grant.
But it costs $125,000 annually to run the museum, and town historians are eager to set up solid funding to ensure its survival in years to come.
Tickets for the gala, which will include art, cowboy humor, classical music and food, are $50 per person until March 28, and $60 per person after that date. Tickets must be bought in advance. The gala is expected to raise at least $15,000.
Sponsors are still being sought for the event.
The museum recently opened two new exhibitions, featuring the history of local police and firefighters as well as town occupations, and increased the attendance fees from $3 to $5 for adults, $3 to $4 for seniors, and $1.50 to $3 for children 5 to 12.
To help raise awareness of the museum, it will be open for free on Memorial Day, when two new sculptures celebrating veterans from Gilbert who served in Korea and Vietnam will be unveiled.
The museum’s building, which is a rare adobe structure in Gilbert, and the only building in town that’s listed as a historical monument, is important to maintain as a museum, Kolar said.
Dale Hallock, who was mayor in the 1970s and is an author of a book about the town, said he’s confident the museum will be able to withstand the current economy.
Hallock, who this week takes over as president of the Gilbert Historical Society, which operates the museum, said that since the new rooms opened in the museum and a remodeling effort has begun, attendance appears to have at least doubled.
And if more volunteers help run the museum, it can stay open more than the current three days a week, bringing in more funding and allowing schools to attend more often, he said.
“History is everything because it tells us what our seniors have gone through, how important it was to them, and to try to make better the future for our children, and grandchildren and in my case even great-grandchildren,” Hallock said.