Darkroom fundraiser looks to keep the light on at Museum of Contemporary Photography

By Yasmeen Sheikah

Fernanda Weissbuch
Darkroom fundraiser looks to keep the light on at Museum of Contemporary Photography

The Museum of Contemporary Photography will host its annual Darkroom fundraiser Feb. 28 in an effort to bridge its funding gap.

The event will honor an acclaimed Moroccan-born photographer and feature an artist auction plus cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

Retired faculty member and former Photography Department Chair Bob Thall has participated in the auction on numerous occasions and is auctioning his work once again during the event.

Thall started working at Columbia in 1978.

“I saw it develop from a little Photography Department gallery in an empty classroom when we were on Ohio Street,” he said. “I have watched it grow into a really important institution.”

Manager of Development at MoCP Brenna Quinn said the museum is still in need of additional funds beyond what the school already provides.

Columbia does not fund the museum in its entirety. According to the MoCP’s annual records, the college provided $758,636 last year. When the MoCP held its Darkroom event in 2018, it raised more than $200,000.

“We do a significant amount of fundraising through grant writing and special events, such as the upcoming benefit,” Quinn said.

The money received goes into the museum’s operating fund, which supports exhibitions, community programs and pays student workers, Quinn added.

Regular tickets are priced at $150 and VIP tickets are $300. The auction is now live on the MoCP website.

Manager of Marketing and Community Engagement at MoCP Marissa Fox said the museum holds a significant collection.

“The museum has been around since 1976,” she said. “We have over 15,000 works of art [and] photographic works in our collection. Some of the pieces are by famous historical photographers, such as Dorothea Lange, and then we collect mid-career and emerging photographers as well.”

Senior photography major Maxwell Johnson is employed at the MoCP and said it needs room to expand.

“I would love for the museum to eventually be able to grow out of the space it is currently in,” Johnson said. “The space we’re allowed is restricting, [but expansion] would take a lot of money.”

Johnson also would liketo see renovations especially considering that people come from all over the world to view the exhibits.

With the current size of the museum, there is not enough room to display all of their photographs, which disappoints visitors often, he said.

“If we had more space, we could put on more shows,” he said. “We have four a year, and those four shows, for the most part, take up the entire exhibition space.”

Photographer Lalla Essaydi will be honored with this year’s Silver Camera Award for her work based on her cultural upbringing.

Essaydi will give a talk during the VIP reception the day of the event and will do a public lecture Feb. 27 at Stage Two, 618 S. Michigan Ave.