Ocoee Society: Dedicated to preserving Cleveland's history

By COLBY DENTON
Posted 9/23/18

There is an elite group in Cleveland dedicated to preserving our city’s heritage through the Museum Center at Five Points. The group is known as the Ocoee Society.

According to the Museum …

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Ocoee Society: Dedicated to preserving Cleveland's history

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There is an elite group in Cleveland dedicated to preserving our city’s heritage through the Museum Center at Five Points. The group is known as the Ocoee Society.

According to the Museum Center, its Ocoee Society members are “the Museum Center’s fanatics who choose to give at a higher level to sustain the financial wellbeing of the museum.”

“These are museum enthusiasts who are truly interested in our longevity,” said Museum Center Executive Director Janice Neyman. “Some joined last week and some have been members since the museum opened.”

Officially the group was formed in  2013; however, there have been Museum Center members since the museum’s inception in 1999. Some of these original members were grandfathered into the Ocoee Society once the group was formed based upon their financial donations. To be in the society, a person must make a donation of $1,000 or more.

The year 2013 was when the Museum Center decided to divide its memberships in order to track them and see exactly how many members they truly had and at what tiers.

Money received from Ocoee Society dues allowed Neyman and curator of collections Lindsay Shirkey to start changing the permanent exhibit area of the museum, as they previously had no sponsor for that. Neyman added how the dues allowed them to expand and modernize various locations that might not have previously been touched.

Being the first person with access to museum news and information is one of the perks of membership. This can relate to new exhibits as well; an example being how Ocoee Society members were given a sneak peek of the Alan Shuptrine art exhibit — including 37 of the artist’s original paintings — a week before it was opened to the public as part of its quarterly event in September.

“This exhibition is all about coming home,” Shuptrine said at the event. “As all of these paintings of the Appalachian region represent the culture of everyone from the area.”

The  various perks provided members at the event includde a catered meal with Chattanooga Whiskey providing drinks. Connie Gatlin of the Cleveland Storyteller’s Guild also read a personal work that was tied to Shuptrine’s artistic renderings of the Appalachian region and its culture. There was  live entertainment provided by a musician using a dulcimer, which is an authentic Appalachian instrument. Haskell Interiors sponsored the event.

“We always try to include a special event or special opening with our society meetings. Only members are invited, but membership is open to the public. Anyone can join,” Neyman added. “These events are the museum’s way of giving back to those who have been so good to it.”

While the organization has been in existence since 2013, the first event took place in October 2017, and from that event, membership grew from 18 to 50. Neyman said a new interest for society members is the talk of revitalization in the downtown area and hopes the museum will be a regular stop for those shopping and eating downtown.

In order to become a Museum Center member, there are various tiers from which to choose. An individual membership is $35; a family membership is $60; a sponsor-level is $125; a patron is $500; and the Ocoee Society is $1,000 or more per year. If interested in joining, check out the Museum Center’s website at www.museumcenter.org and click on “memberships.”

The Museum Center is located at 200 Inman Street and can be reached at 423-339-5745.

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