WMA’s corporate members believe in the transformative power of art, and are committed to supporting the museum’s programs and exhibitions. We chatted with Beau Benton, President of LBA, about their company’s role in the Wiregrass community. LBA supports WMA as a Supporter level corporate member.
WMA: What would you like our other corporate members and museum membership to know about LBA?
Beau: LBA is a family business headed by Larry Blumberg, and the Blumberg family has had long ties in downtown Dothan. The Blumbergs once had a large department store downtown that was an economic engine for the city’s growth in its early years, and so there’s a fondness on Larry’s part to support Dothan as a whole, and especially to help make its downtown a destination point.
WMA: LBA supports the museum as a corporate member, giving ongoing support to help the museum achieve its long-term goals. Why is it important for your company to support WMA?
Beau: It’s important for LBA to support the museum because it in itself supports so many different areas. It’s helping to make Dothan into a vibrant arts community, and the arts — in all their forms — build a vibrant downtown. The museum is a tourism draw, and so from a hospitality standpoint, I appreciate the work that’s done to bring people here.
The museum also works in another area that LBA is invested in, and that’s education. For so many schools, when they make decisions for funding, arts programs are low-hanging fruit for them to cut. So even though students need art education, their schools can’t or won’t offer it. The museum provides art education for school systems and students that really need it.
WMA: Tell us about the connections between your work with LBA, the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce, and Visit Dothan.
Beau: Whether public or private, those organizations all play a hand in elevating Dothan and the surrounding area. A rising tide lifts all boats, and so tourism, business, and economic development work together. In the same way, the museum not only provides art education and exhibitions but also provides events that people look forward to year after year, like Yard Party for Art. There’s a synergy that happens when business development looks at tourism as a way to grow.
WMA: Do you have a memory or experience at the Wiregrass Museum of Art that you’d be willing to share?
Beau: It’s a bit funny, but early on in my career in Dothan, when the museum had a fundraiser, it was always for fixing something in the building. That’s understandable, because the organization was still young then, and there were always building areas that needed repair. Now, I see a lot of growth at WMA and appreciate what the staff and board are doing to promote the mission in its events and provide long-term impact in its programs. It’s great to see that growth.
WMA: In ten years, what are some things you would like to see happening in the Wiregrass region?
Beau: That word — region — is key for all of us. Regionalism is important to remember for those who work and live in Dothan, because there are so many more from smaller towns and rural areas in Florida, Alabama, and Georgia that look to Dothan as the hub of the Wiregrass. I’m originally from Opp, and I know that smaller towns see Dothan as a great place to enjoy, but we shouldn’t overlook the key role that residents in those areas, even in Florida and Georgia, play as a part of the larger Wiregrass region.
I’m really interested in seeing our region have continued economic growth and become a bigger player in the state. We see what continued development and work with arts organizations have done for areas like Huntsville and Birmingham, and how those areas are growing because of it. I want to see the Wiregrass region grow in the same way, so that it’s not overlooked in the larger conversation for the state of Alabama.
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