More US museums confirm cutbacks
By Helen Stoilas. Published online: 21 January 2009
NEW YORK. As we reported last month (The Art Newspaper, January 2008), a number of museums have announced that they are cutting back on operating costs in the face of a continuing global recession.
On New Year’s Eve, the Austin Museum of Art shelved plans to build a new $23m branch in downtown Austin after Houston-based developer Hines Interests withdrew its plans to purchase land from the museum. The land sale would have funded a new museum on the eastern half of a site on Guadalupe and Fourth streets, and Hines planned to build a 30-storey office tower on the western half. Construction was set to begin this year and finish in 2011, but the idea of a new museum has not been completely scrapped. In a statement, Travis Overall, vice president at Hines, said the developer “is still interested in developing an office building in Austin when the market recovers, and we hope it will be in conjunction with Austin Museum of Art. Our hope would be to get a new deal together in 2009 or 2010, and then move full steam ahead”.
Last month, the Denver Art Museum reduced its 2009 budget by $2.5m, or about 12% less than the $21.3m approved by the board in September 2008. The cuts have been made in anticipation of a decline in the museum’s endowment caused by the financial downturn, but museum director Lewis Sharp says there will be no layoffs or other changes made to the programming.
Following news that it is shelving renovation and expansion plans, the Cincinnati Art Museum has also had to lay off seven members of its staff, mainly positions involved in the multi-million-dollar capital fundraising campaign for the building project. Director Aaron Betsky says no department curators have been laid off and that the staff cuts will allow the museum to continue with its current operating and exhibitions schedule unchanged.
And the Milwaukee Art Museum has announced new hours and admission prices for 2009, partly in response to economic conditions. As of January, the museum will be closed on Mondays, except for the public holidays Labor Day, Memorial Day, and Dr Martin Luther King Jr Day. Also, the museum now has a single-ticket admission fee of $12 ($10 for student and seniors) and will no longer charge for special exhibitions. This is a significant raise in prices from last year, when general admission to the museum cost $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $4 for students.
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