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Saunders’ gift promotes arts

Muriel Saunders gathered her children and grandchildren on Sunday to formally present a gift to the Johnson Center for the Arts.

Muriel Saunders asked her family to join her on Sunday afternoon for a very special occasion. Not knowing what Saunders had in mind, they came – her sons and daughters, their spouses and their children.

They gathered outside the Johnson Center for the Arts in downtown Troy still not knowing and were more than a little curious.

It was not until Mack Gibson, arts center board chair, spoke that the Saunders “children” understood the reason their mom wanted them there.

In loving memory of her husband, George Saunders, Muriel Saunders had made a major contribution to the Johnson Center for the Arts and the middle lower gallery of the arts center has been named the George and Muriel Saunders Gallery.

Gibson called the contribution an overwhelming act of generosity.

“As chairman of the arts center board, I get to observe the dedicated hours performed by our board, docents, volunteers and staff,” Gibson said. “Without this dedication, we could not function. However, there is a personal sense of achievement when someone new steps up to the plate and says to me that they want to be a part of the art education mission of this arts center. We are so appreciative of Muriel’s support of the arts and her generosity that will help ensure that arts education and opportunities are available to the people off our community for many years to come.”

George Saunders was characterized as a man who loved his family, his years at Sanders Lead Company and the city he called home.

“I feel that this naming opportunity will help further art education for the children of this area and encourage others to support this wonderful arts center,” Saunders said. “It is amazing that a town this size of Troy has such an incredible arts center. I am so impressed with what we have here and I know that it will have a long and lasting effect on our community.”

Saunders said that the more knowledgeable she became about the arts center the more she realized what an asset it is to the community.

“I knew for a while what I wanted to do but I didn’t tell my children,” she said. “I knew they would be very pleased because we were honoring their dad and they are. We are excited to be a part of this wonderful art complex and all that it offers our community.”

Saunders has two granddaughters who are interested in the arts and, hopefully, one day their artwork will hang at the Johnson Center for the Arts, she said.

Richard Metzger, arts center director, expressed appreciation to Saunders and her family for their generosity and their support of the arts.

“This has been an exciting day at the Johnson Center for the Arts,” Metzger said. “It is always a special occasion when we have families become a part of the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center in a way that will impact lives for years to come.

“We are so grateful and humbled to have someone like Muriel in our community who not only talks the talk but walks the walk and puts the community and its well being in such high priority and someone who strives to fulfill our mission of the cultural enrichment of the lives of all of our citizens through exposure to the arts and education in the arts.”