Over the weekend, I picked up a couple of startling news stories coming out of Owensboro, KY. The mayor, Ron Payne, was quoted speaking about the possibility of the International Bluegrass Music Museum moving from Owensboro to Nashville, unless $3 million in funding is approved to upgrade a building which could provide them a new home in Owensboro.
Terry Woodward, chairman of the IBMM Board, was also quoted as seeing the situation as dire.
“People who loan us their memorabilia want it displayed,” he said, “but we’re maxed out on what we can do spacewise. I’m fearful that if we don’t do something soon, we’ll lose the museum to Nashville. And that’s not a scare tactic.”
The fears expressed came from a concern that the museum might be drawn into the orbit of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, set to undergo a major expansion which will more than double their exhibition space to 350,000 sq. ft. The one thing missing in the equation is an invitation or overture from the Hall of Fame, and IBMM Executive Director Gabrielle Gray tells us that their facility is thriving where it sits.
I don’t feel any threat concerning the Country Music Hall of Fame. They are a sister organization, not a whale that is going to swallow us up. We have every reason to cooperate with them, and no reason at all to be competitive.
We have some of their artifacts on display right now, and have a very good working relationship with their staff and leadership.”
Gray also mentioned how the IBMM has thrived in its current location, with membership up 1200% in the past 9 years, and staff going from 2.5 to 10 in that same period.
“We’re in tall cotton here – we’re not going anywhere. IBMM is where we need to be, and we’re doing quite well where we are.
I think it would be very difficult to replicate the level of support anywhere else that we receive here in Kentucky. There is a lot of bluegrass history here in Owensboro – and of course Bill Monroe lived right down the road.”
As for moving the museum to the proposed new location in town, Gray says that they are flattered by the attention from the city, but uncertain if now is the right time to consider a new venue.
“It’s a great address, right on the river, and would be an astonishing gift – a stunningly beautiful and worthy home for our music. But the State Office Building is three times the size of our current building, and I fear that if we moved, we would have to also triple our staff and budget. I’m not sure we are ready for that sort of transition.
I’m far more interested in enhancing and developing our current property.”
IBMM depends on the financial support of bluegrass lovers worldwide. Membership and donation information can be found on their web site.