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More on That Indy Admission Fee

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The reaction in Indianapolis to the museum's decision to go from free general admission to an $18 general admission has been very instructive. I've been watching local comments, and--not statistics, just my impression--the tally is overwhelming against. Again, the opposition is not necessarily against all museum admissions, it's opposed to the gigantic jump and the way it was announced. Some commenters continue to blast Charles Venable for saying nothing since the press release was issued. Again, I have to ask, what board dynamics is he … [Read more...]

Indianapolis Museum Stirs Up A Hornet’s Nest

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What the Indianapolis Art Museum did Friday has to fall into the category of major PR blunder. In a press release headlined "IMA announces new campus enhancement plan to improve visitor experience and financial sustainability," it sneaked in the fact--in the ninth paragraph, no less--that: To build stronger relationships with guests, ensure quality programming through customer feedback and to guarantee long-term financial sustainability, the IMA will be refining its admission pricing policy. Visitor research has shown that IMA guests do not … [Read more...]

No Other Word For It: Fundraising Failure

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The Phillips Collection crowdsourcing effort, an attempt to raise $45,000 in a month to support a website abut Jacob Lawrence, has failed miserably. When the drive ended on Dec. 10, only $2,988--a mere 7 percent of the goal--had been pledged. And that took 41 supporters, for an average contribution of about $73. All of the background is here, in my previous post on the subject. Why would this campaign fail? I can think of several possibilities, or a combination of some of them: --Not enough visibility for the campaign. I checked the … [Read more...]

Rush Post: Financial Health Of the Arts Industry

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Southern Methodist University's National Center for Arts Research (NCAR), begun a few years ago, ,released a new bit of research today--"examining the financial, operating, engagement and staffing health of the U.S. nonprofit arts industry." I confess I find much of its work a bit unsurprising. Do we really need research that shows, as this report did, that "The receipt of an NEA or IMLS grant has a positive effect on nearly all performance outcomes" or that "Arts sectors that are heavily into digital distribution of their programs … [Read more...]

Barron’s Strange Report On Art Museums

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Last weekend, Barron's--the financial weekly--published a cover story on art museums. It's a crazy salad of a piece, full of supposedly new thoughts that are actually old, composed with a strange tone that shifts throughout the piece, exaggerating in parts, and so on. It frequently cited net assets as a sign of wealth, which includes items like land, when it should have used endowment figures. It has a few non sequiturs (notice the paragraph below on the Met). And it bore what I think is a misleading headline, Billionaire Art Museums. (see … [Read more...]

Does Crowdfunding Work? Not So Far

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Back on Nov. 6, the Phillips Collection sent me an email about a worthy effort: it had started a crowd-funding campaign for a micro-website about Jacob Lawrence. It would feature "unpublished interviews between the artist and museum curators in 1992 and 2000, including one conducted just prior to the artist’s death." The point, obviously, was to engage people in learning about Lawrence, particularly because the Phillips plans to present the exhibition Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series (one image at left) in fall, 2016, following its presence … [Read more...]

Detroit: Time To Put Artists On The Spot?

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Supporters of the Detroit Institute of Arts have been celebrating for almost a week now--it was last Friday that the court ruled in favor of the Grand Bargain, which buys freedom for the DIA. But with a catch: the museum still has to raise more than $10 million to reach its $100 million mandated contribution to the deal. And then it must raise about $300 million over the next eight or so years for its endowment, to replace the money it is receiving from the millage tax--which ends after 10 years from its inception. Plus, it always has to … [Read more...]

Detroit: Someone There Is Listening

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Remember the political ruckus over the pay packages in the last years for Graham Beal, director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, and Annmarie Erickson, his deputy? Local politicians threatened to repeal the millage tax, which is supporting operations at the DIA for the next ten years, because of it. Even though I thought that the pair probably deserved the raises and bonuses as disclosed, I agreed that the optics of them--at the particular time, with the Grand Bargain hanging in the balance--had to be fixed. And I recommended a way … [Read more...]

Detroit Institute Addresses Compensation Complaints

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A short time ago, the Detroit Institute of Arts responded to the criticism that has kept it in the news for the wrong reasons this week--and threatened to undermine support for the millage tax that provides $23 million on operating support each year. Board chair Edward Gargaro signed the statement, which said that "unfortunately misunderstandings have occurred." Indeed. In a key paragraph, Gargaro promised to discuss the matter the public officials threatened to repeal the millage: We will continue to provide our community with exceptional … [Read more...]

Mistake at DIA: A Pay-Raise Ruckus And A Solution

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In the last two years or so, I've often praised the Detroit Institute of Arts for conducting itself in the right way--with respect to passing the millage and in how it has handled itself during the city's bankruptcy. Now, though, it has made a major mistake--in terms of optics if not substance. And it may cost the museum big, in terms of local support. Some local legislators are threatening to take action. According to several reports, the board handed out big raises to the top two execs in 2012: Director Graham Beal received a 13% raise … [Read more...]

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