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story.lead_photo.caption Louis Meluso

Editor's note: A new Sunday feature, Personified will put a face on area organizations. This week, we introduce Louis "Lou" Meluso, executive director of the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum.

Mission: To foster art appreciation in the community through diverse exhibitions, educational programming, dynamic events and cultural partnerships.

Louis ‘Lou’ Meluso

Executive Director

Fort Smith Regional Art Museum

About: RAM originated in 1948 under the Arkansas Association of University Women. In 1951 the Associated Artists of Fort Smith began exhibiting art and holding classes in various locations throughout Fort Smith. In 1960 space for an art center was purchased, and in 1968 the Fort Smith Art Center was incorporated. The small art center offered a valuable service for local and regional artists by offering space for its artists for five decades.

The opening of the new museum at 1601 Rogers Avenue near the heart of Fort Smith marked a major turning point for this organization. Arvest Bank made the expansion possible by donating the 16,000-square-foot building to the art center in January of 2009, following a $211 million dollar buyout of Superior Federal Bank in 2003. The art center was fully re-branded and opened in January of 2013 as the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum, fully compliant with the standards of the American Alliance of Museums.

Services Provided: We offer thought-provoking fine art exhibitions, important traveling exhibitions and [exhibitions] highlighting emerging artists. Our education team offers a wide range of art making opportunities from juried art contests and workshops with world-class artists to our free weekend, home school and summer children's programs.

Average number of people served annually: In 2017 we served 9,583 visitors with our exhibition and educational programming.

Why do you work for a nonprofit organization? After years of working in museums playing a supporting role, the position here at RAM is an opportunity to develop cultural programming in a more direct way. ... This affords me the unique opportunity to make a real difference in the cultural fabric of this community. I'm here to make a difference.

What part of your job fills the most of your time? In a small museum, everyone wears multiple hats. The most enjoyable part of my job is getting out into the community and meeting people. I love to hear what people think about the museum and their ideas about art and exhibitions they'd like to see. I want people to feel they can participate in the development of our programs.

What have you learned on the job that you didn't expect? I was surprised somewhat by the warmth of the people here. I felt so welcomed. All across town I sensed a general friendliness from most people.

Are there volunteer opportunities in your organization? Yes! We have an ongoing need for people to partner with us and donate some of their time and energy to our mission. Volunteers assist us with administrative [tasks], children's educational programs and as support staff for our events.

What upcoming fundraisers and/or other events does your organization have planned? February 15th will see the opening of "Will Barnet: Forms and Figures." This will be an exciting exhibition of Barnet's innovative prints as he explored the figure with unique color and compositional approaches. In March we will announce the call for works for the RAM Annual Art Invitational. This national juried show will be the largest in the state and have cash awards as well as a one-person exhibition opportunity at RAM.

NAN Profiles on 01/21/2018

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