Decoys carved by famed “counterfeiters in wood” Lem and Steve Ward today routinely sell for thousands of dollars.
According to Salisbury University’s Business, Economic and Community Outreach Network (BEACON), however, the legacy the brothers left on their native Eastern Shore is worth much more. A recent BEACON study placed the annual economic impact of SU’s Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art at some $6.1 million on the local region.
“The Ward Museum strives to enhance the cultural and educational fabric of this area through its events, programs and exhibits,” said Lora Bottinelli, the museum’s executive director. “The economic impact of these activities is equally important and significant to the strength of our community.”
According to the BEACON study, some $4 million of the museum’s annual imprint on the community comes from direct impacts — money spent by visitors the facility draws to the area.
This includes hotel stays, as well as gas and food purchases, especially during three of the museum’s biggest annual events: the Ward World Championship Carving Competition, held each spring in Ocean City, MD; the Chesapeake Wildfowl Expo, held at the museum each fall; and the spring Art in Nature Photo Festival, also held at the museum.
Another $2.6 million is a result of the museum’s operational expenditures in the region. This includes salaries, services and supplies purchased by the museum, etc.
“By the time the various direct expenditures of the museum and of its visitors finish churning in our local economy, we are talking about a $6 million economic engine,” said Dr. Memo Diriker, BEACON director. “Since a significant part of this economic impact is based on visitors spending money, it is almost as if we are ‘exporting’ the Ward Museum experience.”
The study also shows how much the community puts back into the facility and its activities. In fiscal 2012, volunteers contributed an estimated 19,000 hours to the museum. That translates to approximately $433,000 in donated services, according to the study.
Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Ward Museum was established at SU by the Ward Foundation in 1975. Its current facility, on Schumaker Pond, opened in 1992. The museum strives to promote wildfowl art while preserving the Ward Brothers’ legacy. USA Today has named it among “10 Places to Admire American Folk Art.”
“Organizations like The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art are important cultural and economic anchors in their communities,” said Theresa Colvin, executive director of the Maryland State Arts Council. “At the state level, the combined economic impact of nonprofit arts organizations is $1 billion annually.”
For more information visit the Ward Museum Web site at www.wardmuseum.org.
More about the War Museum here)