Salisbury State gives boost to Shore wildfowl museum

School will take over debt payment for 3 years

March 04, 2000|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,SUN STAFF

SALISBURY -- In a move aimed at boosting the cash-strapped Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury State University officials announced a deal yesterday they say will enhance the university's growing role as the cultural center of the Eastern Shore.

The museum, which houses perhaps the world's finest collection of wildfowl art, will donate its assets, worth an estimated $8.5 million, to the university. In exchange, the university will make payments on the museum's $1.6 million debt, which has limited the collection of historical decoys, wildfowl art and carvings.

"With the debt, we were stymied; without the debt, we can get back to our mission of preserving and perpetuating wildfowl art," said Fulton P. Jeffers, chairman of the 32-year-old foundation that oversees the museum. "The best news is that the collection will no longer be at risk and we're not in a position where everything we do is done to make the mortgage."

University officials say they will re-evaluate the arrangement annually, deciding whether to continue making payments on the debt for more than three years. The Ward foundation will concentrate on expanding its exhibitions and step up efforts to attract more contributions from private donors.

At Salisbury State, educators are applauding the partnership, in which the day-to-day museum operation will remain independent, as a way to improve university arts programs.

Among the possibilities, says Ronald Dotterer, dean of the Fulton School of Liberal Arts, are internships for students interested in arts administration. The museum also might offer opportunities for junior high and high school students who attend the university's Maryland Summer Center for the Arts, he said.

"One of the roles we take seriously is our leadership in arts and culture throughout this region," Dotterer said. "This is a wonderful opportunity to enhance programs we already have in place."

The museum was located on the Salisbury State campus for more than 20 years until moving about 2 miles away into a new $4.5 million building in 1992. Debt on the 30,000-square-foot headquarters and gallery has proved too much for the nonprofit foundation.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.