At just over 10 years old, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture is still a “baby” in a world of Smithsonians, the Met and other collections, said Helen Yuen, the museum’s marketing director.
That’s why it was so essential for the museum to mark the occasion of its 10th anniversary in 2015. The museum had made it to the “tween years, but it was not an adult,” she said. That meant their year-long calendar of anniversary events was as much about dance classes and cake eating as it was a “rallying cry that we still need support for our next 10 years.”
“It was so important to remind our patrons, friends and the community at large that a museum is as vibrant as the community that supports it,” Yuen said.
Included in their anniversary calendar of events: a community conversation about race; an exhibit on the Dance Theater of Harlem that highlighted the roles of Maryland natives; and a 1920s Renaissance-themed gala meant to evoke the entertainment-rich scene of Pennsylvania Avenue, New York’s Harlem and other thriving U.S. neighborhoods at that time.
Another memory from the anniversary year: The museum welcomed ballet dancer Misty Copeland for a book signing on the same day the American Ballet Theatre announced that she would be the first African-American dancer the company would promote to principal.
“That was huge, exciting and wonderful for us,” Yuen said, and something else that made the year special.
Cut a cake, cut a check
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum was not unique in its anniversary approach: As companies across Maryland celebrate their years in business, they often seek to do two things – mark the occasion festively and make a mark with the community they serve.
When BGE celebrated its 200th anniversary last year, they hosted a customer appreciation month with discount Orioles tickets, sponsored Baltimore’s Light City Festival and established nine annual scholarships to students in BGE’s service area.
The company also marked the occasion with a landmark by commissioning murals with Maryland images on three water tanks in South Baltimore. Travelers on Interstate 95 can see these anniversary mementos as they enter and exit the city.
The Baltimore-based law firm Kramon & Graham PA celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2015 and donated $40,000 to Legal Aid’s Equal Justice Council, an organization Kramon & Graham has historically supported, managing partner David Shuster said, so it was “close to our hearts.”
“We did think about having a party,” Shuster said, but the partners decided to center their celebration on philanthropy. A small in-office gathering with champagne and cake was held for employees, and co-founder Andrew Jay Graham shared memories of the first year in business, Shuster said. But the gift to Legal Aid was the highlight of the anniversary.
The tradition of marking a milestone by giving back has a history at Kramon & Graham. When the firm celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2000, it adopted 25 needy families, and through the lawyers’ synagogues and churches, provided the families with holiday gifts, Shuster said.
Contributing to the community this way makes the anniversaries more meaningful and gives the employees something to feel good about, he said.
For their 50th anniversary this year, Baltimore-based Marks, Thomas Architects will highlight 50 of their architecture projects from the past 50 years as well as unveil a new logo and host a ’60s-themed party with vintage tunes and three signature cocktails named by staff. The firm opened in 1967.
Marks, Thomas, which also has an office in Richmond, has designed the Orokowa Family Center YMCA in Towson, Gilchrist Center at GBMC, Millennial Media, Artifact Coffee and the SEED School of Maryland. About 85 percent of its clients are repeat business, Kate Bowers, the firm’s director of business strategy, said.
“We actually have clients that we had in 1967 who will be invited to the party,” Bowers said. “It will be like a family celebration.”