Visionary Art Museum is a reality

November 13, 1995|By Sylvia H. Badger | Sylvia H. Badger,SUN STAFF

After a decade of hard work, not even Saturday night's windy, rainy, snowy weather could dampen the spirits of Rebecca Hoffberger, the founder of the American Visionary Art Museum.

More than 600 people braved the elements to be among the first to see her $7 million dream at 800 Key Highway. The party was a gala fund-raiser that attracted well-heeled guests who paid $250 for dinner at Southern High School followed by a preview, and others, who paid $500 to $1,000 for a VIP preview before dinner. The museum officially opens to the public Nov. 24.

Rebecca and her attorney husband, Leroy, greeted friends and investors like Zanvyl Krieger who donated $1.8 million to the museum from the Zanvyl Krieger Fund, and his daughter, Betsy Krieger. Investors Anita and Gordon Roddick, founders of the Body Shop International, a worldwide toiletries chain, flew in from London.

Everyone's story was the same when asked how they became involved, "Well, I met Rebecca. " -- that's what one of America's top chefs, Peter Zimmer, said. He met Rebecca while she was dining in Sante Fe and after talking to her about her plans to create a visionary art museum in Baltimore, he agreed to run the museum's Joy America Cafe. Others who were inspired by Rebecca included dinner chair Nancy Blum; board member Sister Charlotte Kerr; and Mike and Pattie Batza, he's COB of Heritage Properties and chaired the preview party's corporate giving program.

Others at the party were Leroy's cousin, former Orioles owner Jerry Hoffberger and his artist wife, Alice; City Councilman Tim Murphy; Janet Bouton, Helix Health Care, and Mark Preston, Legg Mason; Mary Pat Clarke, who's busy job hunting; Darielle and Earl Linehan, Woodbrook Capital; Gail and Jim Riepe, T. Rowe Price; and filmmaker John Waters, who predicts this museum will become one of Baltimore's top tourist attractions.

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