Last evening, the Women's Committee of the Carnegie Museum of Art celebrated its golden anniversary with a gala at the museum.
Those in attendance would have noticed that the committee's efforts were honored by a display of golden placards placed next to 50 of the more than 75 works of art that the committee has helped the museum purchase over the years.
Since its inception in 1957, the Women's Committee has played an integral role at the museum, says the committee's current president, Ranny Ferguson.
"The mission of the women's committee from the beginning was to support the Museum of Art in any way that it could," she says. "In the very beginning, that involved everything from polishing silver to schlepping things in their cars. It was well before my time, but they really took on any job that they were asked to do, even though it was a smaller staff in those days."
Today, the group numbers 220 active and advisory members. Community outreach is at the core of the committee's mission, and coordinating a variety of activities year-round for different audiences keeps the ladies, who range in age from their 30s to their 90s, quite busy.
"We feel very strongly about reaching out to the community so that they know that this is their museum," Ferguson says. "It's important to draw them into the museum. It can't be a quiet, sterile place. It has to be a place that is vibrant."
Aside from the docent program, which the group developed nearly 40 years ago, community outreach primarily takes the form of annual events like the Decorative Arts Symposium, the holiday trees and preview party, the Holiday Party for Special Guests, and the Founders-Patrons event.
Each brings in different groups. The Holiday Party for Special Guests, for example, brings more than 200 special-needs children and young adults and their caregivers to the museum every December. And the Founders-Patrons event honors the benefactors of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.
The committee's greatest achievement has been, and continues to be, its willingness to make the museum reach out to the community at large to the greatest degree possible through these programs and events, says Richard Armstrong, the Henry J. Heinz II director at the Carnegie Museum of Art.
"It was this group that really was very concerned with making the museum more extroverted," Armstrong says. "They're the ones who consistently have made certain that the museum opens its doors over and over to different parts of the public at different times of the year.
"To me, that's the big intangible but crucial achievement of the group," he says. "Tangibly, we can point to the …