Lilly grant aids effort to create Skelton museum in Vincennes
By JENNY PETER August 8, 2012 10:48AM
Updated: August 8, 2012 11:28PM
VINCENNES (AP) — A recent $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. means bigger and better exhibits for the Red Skelton Museum.
Anne Pratt, the museum’s director of marketing and development, said the money will go specifically toward the development of exhibits, which, she says, will mean an “outstanding” final product.
“This money allows us to make this museum spectacular,” she said. “People are going to be amazed at just how wonderful this museum is going to be and what a tourist attraction it will become for Vincennes.”
Pratt said since the announcement of the grant, engineers designing the museum’s exhibits have been hard at work creating interactive pieces that will take visitors not only through the life of Vincennes’ favorite son but also his comedy and the ways in which he made the world laugh for so many years.
“We are all so excited,” she said. “We’ll be meeting with our designers at the end of the month to get a more clear picture of what the museum will look like. But this won’t just be a museum with biographical panels and a few items on display. This will be a fully-interactive museum.”
Pratt said some of the ideas for the exhibits include allowing visitors to immerse themselves in Skelton’s “legacy of laughter.”
“That’s what this museum is focusing on, what makes us laugh, and that’s what will make this museum more timeless, something different than other celebrity museums because this one will focus on his comedy and what has always made us laugh,” she said.
Pratt said the grant has been “a long time coming.”
The Lilly Endowment Inc. awarded $90,000 to the museum’s board of directors in 2002 to do a market research and feasibility study, which led to the construction of the museum.
Then, last September, the board created a committee to go after money for the museum itself.
Pratt said the board is still on target to open the museum to the public next summer, just in time for Skelton’s 100th birthday.
But fundraising efforts aren’t over, she said.
The board isn’t quite to its $4.1 million fundraising goal, and more money is needed for operational costs and the completion of other aspects of the museum, she said.
A golf outing, “Scramble for Red,” has been scheduled for Oct. 3 at the Country Club of Old Vincennes, and Pratt is in the planning stages of holiday event, “Festival of Trees with Silver Bells and Diamonds,” to be held Dec. 1 at the Red Skelton Performing Arts Center and will feature the Diamonds, a rock and roll band whose cover of “Little Darlin’” climbed to No. 2 on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 in 1957.
The band came to Vincennes for the first time in February and sang at a local Think Pink event. The turnout and response was so good, Pratt said, that the museum’s board asked them to come back and do an event for them.
“We’ll have appetizers and drinks and a Christmas tree auction,” she said.
Pratt is also getting ready to launch what she calls the “Open Door Campaign,” wherein she will be reaching out to members of the public seeking donations in exchange for certain incentives. Memberships will also be available in January.
“We just want everyone locally and regionally to feel like a part of this great effort for this museum,” she said.
Also in promotion of the museum’s opening, a small “traveling exhibit,” has made is first stop at First Robinson Savings Bank in Robinson, Ill. The bank last summer made a $100,000 donation to the museum, so it was first on the list, Pratt said.
The exhibit has eight biographical panels, and if security is good enough at the potential site, then also a few cases of small memorabilia.
“And in addition to all that,” Pratt said, “we also have ‘Red’s Dream Team,’ a group of volunteers that help in the gift store and at special events, so there’s so many ways for people to get involved.”
Information from: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, http://www.vincennes.com