Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Sobering Look at the Real Numbers

Mark Vallen over at Art for a Change wrote a very eloquent yet sobering post earlier this month putting the economic crisis and the President's spending plan in perspective: $50 million for national arts spending in the stimulus package and "$11 billion a month for the next year and a half despite the planned draw down of U.S. forces in Iraq."

Vallen also begins a list of museums that are laying off staff or closing their doors, similar to the list I began, but his is more detailed and mentions a couple I have not, such as the Walters Art Museum which "laid-off seven of its 150 employees, imposed a salary and hiring freeze, and cancelled [sic] a major exhibition of works by French painter Jean-Leon Gerome - an exhibit that would have been a collaborative project with the Musee d'Orsay in Paris and the Getty in Los Angeles."

When you look at the budget cuts for just the 8 institutions Vallen mentions, it becomes painfully obvious that $50 million just won't go very far. Closures will be inevitable. Guess Elizabeth Merritt of the Center for the Future of Museums is right; since it isn't a question of if but when, how many and who, maybe we need to start figuring out how to orchestrate this strategically so that the overall value of arts organizations as a whole is not diminished for the public.

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