Red Earth Merger with Museum off to Strong Start

By Nichols, Max | THE JOURNAL RECORD, November 14, 1992 | Go to article overview

Red Earth Merger with Museum off to Strong Start


Nichols, Max, THE JOURNAL RECORD


For 15 years, the Center of the American Indian was a small museum in Kirkpatrick Center. It struggled until President Doug Cummings asked Allie Reynolds to get the finances in order.

Reynolds became president in 1986, and the collection began to grow, but the center lacked visibility. It remained a small museum among much larger operations in Kirkpatrick Center.

Meanwhile, Red Earth was started by Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Yvonne Kauger and Ken Bond of Liberty National Bank in 1987 to stage an annual giant festival. Again, Reynolds became president, and Red Earth became highly visible as the largest and most prestigious festival of its kind in the country.

Now the two organizations have merged, after a movement led by Reynolds. Having built Atlas Mud Co. as a successful business, he could see the need to avoid competition for local financial support and to increase efficiency by combining the two staffs.

It turns out that he was right.

With Reynolds as president, Red Earth Inc. is off to a strong new start with a $563,000 budget, no debt, an endowment of $125,000, more space for what is now the Red Earth Indian Center, 900 volunteers and a staff of seven full-time employees plus three part timers.

"The fit is just right," said Terri Cummings, executive director and daughter-in-law of Doug Cummings. She had headed the museum since 1989, and she now works with Phillip Bread, marketing director who had led the marketing of the Red Earth festival since 1988.

"It's remarkable how well the skills of the staff combine to help each other," said Cummings. "We needed help to increase the visibility of the center. We had no marketing director, and we have that with Phillip Bread to help us plan more events and exhibits in the future.

"We provide our experience in long-range planning for the festival, and Red Earth paid off two loans totaling $20,000 as a result of the merger. We both have more space for the staff to operate, and we have the credibility and support of Kirkpatrick Center for both operations."

As a result of the merger, Red Earth Inc. can now focus on building its two primary operations: The Red Earth festival, which attracts an estimated 140,000 visitors each June to enjoy the talents of more than 1,300 dancers, 270 artists, 120 musicians, plus 100 presenters and performers from more than 100 Native American tribes.

"We have been copied all over the country," said Bread, "but there is nothing to match it." The Red Earth Indian Center has added 3,000 square feet at Kirkpatrick Center to its original 5,800.

"Where we once had only a tiny office space in the back of the museum," said Cummings, "we now have space for all of our staff members, space for our permanent collection and a research library, and facilities for our education program.

"We teach more than 4,000 students a year. They come here from schools to learn about Native American culture, but for years they had to sit on the floor in the museum while visitors walked around them. Now, we will have a place for our classes."

The museum's permanent collection now includes more than 3,000 books, documents, maps, videos and periodicals, plus about 1,000 artifacts.

Cummings, who has a degree in anthropology-sociology from Oklahoma State University, developed her organizational skills as assistant to the general manager of the Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra, primarily in development, and as administrative assistant to Doug Cummings in his oil company.

She came to the center as executive director in 1989.

"At that point, the center's finances were in good shape," she said. "We had an operating budget of about $110,000, and a total budget of about $140,000 including grants, but we needed direction."

That changed when the Support Center was called in to help the museum develop long-range planning.

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