Lisa Howie, Director, Bermuda National Gallery who told us the purpose of her delivery was to distinguish myth from reality. By 'myth' I mean urban legend, local lore, rumour/ gossip; by reality I mean fact. Who would have thought that one's national gallery might need such distinguishing?  However, this is indeed the case. 

To begin, some historical facts: Since 1992, the Bermuda National Gallery (the BNG) has enacted its mission to promote, benefit and advance the visual arts in Bermuda. The BNG is housed in the City Hall & Arts Centre, with a renewed lease of 21 years as of 2009; and for almost two decades prior we have showcased world-class exhibitions, some travelling from overseas, many featuring local talent and culture. 

The BNG has 6 collections, which include, but are not limited to: the African collection (featuring traditional masks, reliquary figures, Kenti cloth), the Bermuda collection (featuring Alfred Birdsey, Charles Lloyd Tucker, Sharon Wilson, Charles Zuill, et al); the European collection (featuring Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds; gifted by Hereward Watlington to the Government of Bermuda and cared for by the BNG); the Modern collection (featuring many pieces gifted by John and Nelga Young); the Photography collection (featuring Richard Saunders, Flip Schulke, and many contemporary photographers); and Sculpture collection (featuring Graham Foster, Desmond Fountain, Chesley Trott), as well as the Par-la-Ville Sculpture Park.   These collections are organic; continued growth to each is very much an on-going project in order to archive Bermuda's evolving visual arts and enrich Bermuda's evolving culture.

Myth #1: The Bermuda National Gallery is government funded.  While the title "national" suggest this, the truth is that Government sponsors the BNG, in this fiscal year, 7% of the annual budget. We are grateful for this; however, the result of such limited support puts greater pressure on corporate citizens and the larger community.  Membership is therefore vital; membership rates start at $10 for seniors and students; $35 for individuals; $60 families; and $5000 for corporate citizens. We accept planned gifts, consider art donations, and have our fingers crossed that a generous patron will one day jump-start the endowment.

Myth #2: The Bermuda National Gallery is a wealthy organization without financial need. Alas, this is not the case; indeed, one of my primary tasks as the new director is to see our finances into the positive, while continuing to deliver a world-class museum product. As a national gallery we are dedicated to making exhibitions culturally relevant and also culturally expansive. In our rhetoric we offer to bring the world of art to Bermuda and Bermuda's art to the world.  To do this we feature travelling international exhibitions that tap into various local interests and curriculum, such as Secrecy- African Art that Conceals and Reveals; A Window on the Azores; British photographer Bill Brandt; Inuit Art from the Arctic; and Alitash Kebede's Living With Art collection of African American artists. These exhibitions play an important role in the education/ entertainment duality of a museum, by encouraging global cultural appreciation and providing aesthetic moments perhaps never to be seen again. 

Myth #3: The Bermuda National Gallery caters to an elite audience. 

We recognize that we live in a big white building with austere columns that may not feel welcoming; we understand that for many when they think of "art" they think 'I can't draw' and have horrible school memories; and we have heard that the word "museum" for some connotes 'an antique stink', which repels them.  Such opinions however can be uprooted with one visit to the BNG. The Bermuda National Gallery is committed to enriching the community, to encouraging critical dialogue about our culture, while inspiring our artists, young and old. 

I encourage the Rotary Club of Bermuda to assist the Bermuda National Gallery in reaching its goals.  While finances is central to this short delivery, it costs nothing to spread the word to families, friends, colleagues, your network; to encourage them to see what we offer; and to clarify who we are and what we provide whenever you get the opportunity.