Civil Rights Institute has a new director - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Civil Rights Institute has a new director

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By  Stephanie Springer  - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  The city approved $150,000 over three years to pay the salary of the new director, retired ASU professor Lee Formwalt hit the ground running.

Just last year the museum opened a three million dollar expansion, but attendance and funds have been low. But now with new leadership, several folks are hoping it takes the museum in another direction.

The civil rights movement brings back memories for museum administrator Irene Turner.

"My father was very active... my sisters went to jail," she recalls.

Her father was the first black bus driver hired in Albany, and since 1998 she's worked hard at keeping this piece of history alive. "I talk it up, I try to tell people come and visit us come and see."

For almost a year, the institute has been without a director, so Turner and the Mount Zion church has helped keep the building afloat. "I've served many hats. I've been the janitor, I've been the yard person I've been the administrator I've done everything so every job I've done.

But today was an exciting day. Lee Formwalt was announced as the new executive director, and he says he is going to work hard at bringing people in. "Part of the problem last year was we didn't have any leadership on the staff. No executive director and that's the executive director's job to bring the community to the museum."

He says its about brining new thoughts and ideas to the table connected with the Albany movement.

"Programming is a big deal and needs to be a big deal, so if you don't have programming you aren't going to have people coming."

He also says plans on taking advantage of grants to bring in more money. "So far we have been depending on the generosity of mount Zion Baptist church but that just keeps the doors open so we've got to do more."

Ultimately he says he wants to get more people involved and create a culture of philanthropy, because it takes more than membership fees to operate this museum.  

The director encourages everyone to visit the museum.

The second Saturday of every month, the Freedom Singers perform and he says it's a moving performance.

The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, from eight to four.

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