The annual Harvest Supper fundraiser set new records for attendance and private support for the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses when it returned this fall after being postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic.
About 600 people attended the recent sold-out event, which generated $175,000, said Diane Scruggs, of Oxford, Mississippi, president of the Friends of the Museum Board. The event raised about $125,000 in 2019.
“The Friends of the Museum board members continue to be astounded by the remarkable success of Harvest Supper, and both the Friends and the UM Museum are grateful and humbled by the community’s continuing support,” she said.
Set on the grounds of Rowan Oak, the historic former residence of Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner, the fundraiser is known as one of Oxford’s premier arts and cultural events.
This, the ninth Harvest Supper, featured live performances – including music and an artist painting a piece that was in the auction – as well as artwork created by Mississippians and food prepared by some of the community’s finest chefs.
The event, which generated funds through sponsorships and art auctions, brought together Ole Miss alumni, local residents, and out-of-town guests with artists, writers and musicians for dinner and entertainment.
Harvest Supper is organized each year by the Friends of the Museum, an 18-member volunteer board that supports the activities and acquisitions of the Museum and Historic Houses through advocacy, fundraising and special programming.
“We appreciate the opportunity to bring the community together to celebrate food, art, music and place – a feat that would not happen without the generous in-kind support from local businesses, our team of loyal partners working together to create this special evening, and the enthusiastic participation and financial support from those who sponsor and attend Harvest Supper,” Scruggs said.
Dozens of generous sponsors provided support, including presenting sponsors Diane and Dick Scruggs, the Madison Charitable Foundation and Nancy and Ray Neilsen; and platinum-level sponsors Elizabeth and Will Galtney, Marla and Lowry Lomax, Nicholas Air, The Self Foundation, Splinter Creek, Margaret Wylde, and Kelley and Lou Zeleskey.
The financial support generated at the Harvest Supper this fall is especially appreciated, Scruggs said.
“With the continuance of the pandemic, the UM Museum has been directly impacted by the absence of funds, visitors, receptions and educational activities,” Scruggs said. “Harvest Supper has provided the financial support needed to help bridge gaps in funding.”
Frequently named as one of the nation’s top college museums, the UM Museum and Rowan Oak host visitors from all 50 states and 58 countries. The museum recently was named as one of the state’s best museums for art by Mississippi Magazine, an honor awarded one year after the magazine named Rowan Oak as the state’s best historic site.
“This signature fundraising event benefiting the museum and Rowan Oak is a magical evening, with attendees consistently remarking on the evocative setting and celebration,” said Robert Saarnio, the museum’s director. “The funds raised augment our capacity to serve diverse audiences, and the combination of cause and conviviality is unmatched in our community’s annual social calendar.
“Much of what we accomplish would not be possible without the support of the Friends of the Museum; they are an essential and dedicated auxiliary for us. The Friends are our best ambassadors, and their care and concern translate to tireless energy and goodwill on our behalf.”
The 2022 Harvest Supper is set for October 13, Saarnio said.
By Jonathan Scott