For Museum’s ‘Circle,’ art at heart of community initiatives


“Everyone deserves access to art – everyone. Art is hope, art is opportunity, art is education,” said Becky Torbin, chair of the Circle, a funding arm of the Vero Beach Museum of Art, welcoming members and guests to an afternoon tea in the museum’s newly renovated atrium to kick off its 13th season.

“This is the largest attendance we’ve had for an opening and the largest number of guests,” said Torbin, explaining that the Circle is a philanthropic group of women committed to making a difference by evaluating and funding VBMA community-focused, art enrichment initiatives.

She noted that the pandemic provided them with an opportunity to reflect on the past and explore ways to ensure the longevity and vitality of the group through a five-year plan “to preserve the specialness of the Circle and to fuel the future.”

Robyn Orzel, VBMA director of development/associate executive director, related that Circle members have collectively gifted nearly $400,000 to a diversity of programs and initiatives.

She said the Circle has enabled the VBMA to build on its relationship with the Indian River County School District through its Museum Explorations program, formerly Artists in the Schools, especially with schools having “more vulnerable populations,” such as Indian River Academy and Fellsmere Elementary School. They have also funded bus transportation so that students could visit the museum.

“You were the catalyst to get our Art for Health Sake initiative off the ground and you provided training for our facilitators,” said Orzel, noting that the Circle has continued to fund existing, new and expanded initiatives.

“You continue to invest in the museum and the arts, and the impact that you have made is immeasurable,” said Orzel.

She spoke about the challenges the museum experienced over the past 18 months, and the numerous ways they continued to connect with the community, including through Zoom and virtual presentations. Since July 2020, they have also distributed 6,000 art kits to children in the community.

“We needed to be something for everyone, and we did our best to do just that,” said Orzel, adding that they hope to reintroduce live programming in 2022.

Last year, she said, the Circle voted to fund Museum Explorations in schools and, in partnership with the Alzheimer and Parkinson’s Association, their Artful Engagement and Movement in the Moment programs.

The VBMA worked with the schools through classroom PowerPoint presentations, virtual tours and by distributing art kits. They hope to have students back at the museum for live tours next year.

Orzel said the museum also added a new pilot program, Museum Explorations on the Go, funded by a grant from the Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation, which takes the curriculum where it’s needed. This summer, they inaugurated it with the Boys and Girls Clubs in Vero Beach, Fellsmere and Sebastian, the Main, Brackett and North County libraries, and the Environmental Learning Center.

Although Holidays at the Museum this December will again focus on art kits and small family tours, Orzel said they hope that the Children’s Art Festival in April will be “bigger and better than ever.”

For more information about the Circle or VBMA programs, visit

Photos provided

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