If a Southern writer looked out a window of Rowan Oak, the home of the late novelist William Faulkner, the gathering taking place on the front lawn on a crisp September evening might inspire a scene in a novel or short story.
The sense of community created as people gather under the stars enjoying locally grown food and gentle music would not only be appealing for a writer, but also for participants. That’s why so many people are drawn to the Friends of the Museum’s Harvest Supper, the only evening fundraising event hosted annually at Rowan Oak.
The fifth annual Harvest Supper is Sept. 22, the Thursday before the weekend’s SEC football game between the Ole Miss Rebels and the Georgia Bulldogs.
Friends of the Museum members are seeking sponsors for the dinner, which has become one of the signature events of the Lafayette-Oxford-University community’s fall season. Previous Harvest Suppers have sold out, and the 2015 event attracted more than $100,000 in support for the University Museum.
The 2016 event will be no exception, said Carlyle Wolfe, president of the Friends of the Museum, a volunteer organization that supports museum fundraising, advocacy and special programing.
“Harvest Supper, our main fundraiser, has quickly become an extremely popular event among area residents and Ole Miss alumni and friends here for a football weekend,” Wolfe said.
“Proceeds from this annual event and the generosity of sponsors enable the Friends organization to address some of the tremendous opportunities and needs of the museum. It means so much to see community members interacting in the museum programs and exhibits and attending this community-building dinner.”
Robert Saarnio, director of the University Museum and Historic Houses, voiced his appreciation for the support that comes from the event.
“Harvest Supper is a quintessential moment in the annual calendar of the museum and Rowan Oak, as it is for the community of supporters who sustain us,” Saarnio said. “Without the Friends of the Museum's dedication to this magical evening and the generosity of myriad sponsors and attendees, so much of what we offer to our audiences would simply not be possible.
“This extraordinary event inspires us as a staff, and fosters an invaluable degree of good will for the museum and its historic houses – for which we are immensely grateful."
Joy Clark, vice president of the Friends and chair of the Harvest Supper, revealed a few event changes designed to enhance participants’ dining experience.
“We are hosting the event a month earlier than usual, and participants can expect expanded food choices, and the live art auction will be accompanied by a silent art auction,” Clark said. “We will continue featuring two musical groups for the entertainment. The whole evening is being planned as a welcoming and enticing experience, and we are excited to share plans with prospective sponsors and participants alike.”
The Harvest Supper was born out of a need to host a major fundraiser instead of seeking financial support each time the museum has a need, said Dorothy Howorth, a board member and former president of the Friends. Part of the Harvest Supper proceeds is being used to build a permanent endowment for the University Museum.
“The University Museum is the only museum in north Mississippi with such an extensive and diverse collection of art and artifacts that are accessible to all in the area,” Howorth said.
“There is also the cultural and physical aspect: the unique circumstance that puts the museum squarely in the middle between the town and the university. The museum is used by the Oxford community, the university and all across north Mississippi. Harvest Supper helps the community give back to this valuable asset.”
Howorth points to the two upcoming exhibitions as examples. “Gods and Men: Iconography and Identity in the Ancient World,” May 10-Aug. 24, will showcase some of the museum’s David M. Robinson Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities, one of the finest university collections of its kind in the United States, covering the period from 1500 B.C. to 300 A.D.
“The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William Eggleston,” Sept. 13-Jan. 14, will focus on the work of Eggleston, an internationally renowned photographer and a pioneer in fine art color photography.
The Harvest Supper continues to provide a platform to promote the collections and programs available at the University Museum, which was recently named No. 12 on the Best College Arts Museum ranking by Best College Reviews, with Yale University’s museum earning the No. 11 place and Princeton University at No. 14.
Mary Ann Frugé, a Friends of the Museum board member, says when it comes to the museum, she wants sponsors and participants to know that a gift of any size can “do a huge amount of good.”
“The University Museum is a treasure in our community, and it is exciting for us to see more and more people of all ages involved in its programs on a regular basis,” Frugé said. “Harvest Supper is a tremendous undertaking each year, but it comes together thanks to a very dedicated group of board members who want to see the arts continually enhanced. We will be seeking sponsors for this amazing event now and will make tickets available for sale in August.”
Individuals, businesses and other organizations can become Harvest Supper sponsors at these levels:
- Presenting Level: $10,000 and up
- Platinum Level: $5,000 to $10,000
- Gold Level: $2,500 to $5,000
- Silver Level: $1,000 to $2,500
- Bronze Level: $500 to $1,000
Sponsors will be listed on the 550 event invitations mailed in August as well as included in news articles, website and social media posts, electronic newsletters and other communications on the event. The various sponsorship levels also provide tickets to the Harvest Supper, admission passes to Rowan Oak, membership to the University Museum and much more.
Proceeds from the evening will help support numerous aspects of the University Museum, including acquisitions, the “Conversations” guest lecture series, exhibitions, educational programming and special events. The event also generates awareness about the ongoing needs to maintain and operate Rowan Oak and the Walton-Young Historic House, also managed by the museum.
For more information on becoming a Harvest Supper sponsor, contact Joy Clark at email@example.com. For more information on becoming a member of the University Museum – with membership levels ranging from $25 for students, $45 for individuals and more – or for those interested in supporting the museum, contact Rebecca Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-7073.
The University Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and admission is free.
By Tina Hahn