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Artist seeks funds for Springs museum

MIKE ACKER looks over the sign that used to hang at Verdier’s Resort. Acker found the sign in somebody’s backyard and donated it to the Depot Museum. Bill Hoban/Index-Tribune

MIKE ACKER looks over the sign that used to hang at Verdier’s Resort. Acker found the sign in somebody’s backyard and donated it to the Depot Museum. Bill Hoban/Index-Tribune

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If Mike Acker can pull it off, the Springs may have a museum – at least for a couple of months.

Acker, an artist who has been looking at this project for the past two years, applied for a $10,000 grant from the Center for Creative Innovation, a Los Angeles-based arts nonprofit funding group, but he found out recently that he wouldn’t receive the grant. Without the grant, he’s trying to raise more than $20,000.

The museum wouldn’t compete with the Depot Museum, but it would be an annex to it. And it wouldn’t be strictly a history museum, covering instead the range of history, art and community.

“We will present a rotating collection of photographs, historical information, artifacts and recordings and interpretative exhibits,” he said.

Right now, Acker is looking at the numerous resorts that existed in the Springs over the years, and he has prepared a catalog. Part of that catalog includes a map with photos to show what the resorts looked like when they existed, and what’s occupying the sites today.

“A lot of times, there were no addresses for the resorts,” he said. “That’s why I’m compiling a map that would be geographically friendly.”

Acker envisions a combination of exhibits and wants to include oral histories as part of the project.

“Our main source is people’s memories. I want people to come in and tell me their stories,” he said. “The history of the Springs is in people’s heads, but nowhere else.”

In addition to taping the oral histories, the files would be transcribed and become a part of the Sonoma County Museum, as well as a part of the heritage collection at the Sonoma County Library.

“The library would establish one (a heritage collection) for the Springs online,” he said.

Acker, who has talked with numerous people in the Valley about the project, knows there are stories and photos out there that he hasn’t seen. “I want to give people the opportunity to surprise us,” he added.

The museum, as envisioned, would be a three-month project, but Acker hopes it could eventually become permanent and he knows he’s up against a timeline because of the Highway 12 project that could start by next spring. “I want to do this before the Highway 12 work starts,” he said.

Right now, Acker doesn’t have a museum site nailed down, but he’s looking at storefronts across the highway from the Sonoma Valley Teen Center.

He shared his proposed budget with a retired museum director who called it “very ambitious” and said the budget was about a tenth of what would be needed.

Acker, though, is undaunted and hopes to raise the additional money locally through grants, foundations, local businesses, arts commissions and Creative Capital – another group that supports artists through funding and other sources.

Among the resources he already has lined up are items from local collectors including Robert Parmelee, J.M. Berry, Jeff Gilbert, his own collection, a collection of Springs postcards from the Zan photo archive at Stanford University and the Depot Museum.

“In addition to the bricks and mortar museum, we’ll have a website and we’ll blog daily,” he said, adding that he wants to have as much material as possible in both English and Spanish.

For more information, call Acker at 939-6488.