Story last updated at 1:26 p.m. Thursday, November 14, 2002

Museum support appreciated
It is a great pleasure for me to thank publicly all those who made "Putting on the Ritz 2002" an outstanding success and a terrific benefit for our community's museum.

We are especially indebted to the artists of the Kenai Peninsula. Theirs has been a most astounding gift. Several times in the last few weeks while the Ritz Art Show was on display in the Special Exhibitions Gallery of the museum, I took the time to examine each piece of the more than 75 items donated by artists. It didn't take long for me to be deeply moved by the generosity these works represented. I know that when I help a nonprofit or some other charity, I, like most of us, simply write a check or give a few hours of my time.

But here, in front of me, spread out on the walls and pedestals of the gallery, stood scores of works that represented the creative outpouring of more than 65 artists. The gift of the insight, intensity of emotion, skill and intellect of these creative people is -- simply -- overwhelming. Indeed, their gift is all the more moving because these are the folks of our community, who, typically, have the least to give in cash and time. In truth, they give more: they give a part of their soul, and there can be no more precious gift than this.

The Pratt is also deeply indebted to the incredibly generous business community of Homer and the surrounding region. First National Bank Alaska was the principal corporate sponsor and was joined by your own Homer News as major financial contributors. Large Alaska corporations joined dozens of family-owned businesses to create exciting packages of "Adventures" that were auctioned throughout the evening, adding another element of excitement to the fund-raising effort.

The museum is particularly grateful for the incredible bounty in food made possible by the folks of the Homestead Restaurant. Lisa and Tiny Nolan were extraordinarily generous with their unique brand of creative genius, as everyone who was fortunate enough to taste their treats will attest.

Not least of all, scores of volunteers gave hundreds of hours of their time to create the Ritz 2002. They worked on committees, helped serve refreshments, took coats, directed traffic, sold tickets, organized and installed the exhibitions, solicited the donations, kept the data, created the graphics, wrote texts, ran the auction, mastered the ceremonies, and decorated and cleaned up the museum. Without them, the event would not be possible.

My final thanks goes to Heidi Stage, who coordinated Ritz 2002. Along with staff member Kathleen Cashin, Heidi led the volunteers and other museum staff throughout the months of preparation and hectic final weeks with grace, good humor, and consummate organizational skill.

In the end, thanks to the extraordinary generosity of the artists and businesses of our community and the wonderful volunteers and hard-working staff, the Pratt has been able to have the core of its all-important arts programming efforts funded for the coming year. Once again -- for the 17th time -- the success of Putting on the Ritz has demonstrated the high level of community support enjoyed by the museum since those days 34 years ago when volunteers built the Pratt and over the past three decades have sustained it.

To everyone, then, thank you from all of us at the Pratt, members, volunteers, and staff alike, for all that you do for us.

Michael Hawfield, director