THE MONEY BUSINESS - The art museum's new boss gets a crash-course in American arts funding - CleveScene

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Thu, 11/04/2010 - 01:11.

It's a toss up to me between my two favorite assets in Cleveland - The Cleveland Orchestra or the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) - so I am always interested in unique perspectives on those worlds. The CMA is especially interesting right now as they near completion of a massive expansion, that is going very well, and they bring a new Director on board - from the Canadian Museum of Art - David Franklin.

In this week's Scene Magazine, Michael Gill offers the most informative and interesting perspectives on recent CMA developments I've seen, with THE MONEY BUSINESS - The art museum's new boss gets a crash-course in American arts funding.

I've had a good feeling about Franklin from all I've read, and this adds to my enthusiasm. He seems like a personable family man who will integrate with and celebrate with the community rather than hover above, as is so often the case with people in such lofty places - we'll be seeing much human interest in this family in the community, and expect people will appreciate the additions to the community - and neighborhoods of Shaker, where the Franklins have settled.

Of interest in Gill's informative reporting are some financials on the museum and it's operations, including - "Its largest and most dependable source of public funding — the cigarette tax — is just a $1.5 million fragment of the museum's $30 million overall budget". As the museum is one of the greatest in the world and one of few that are FREE - YES FREE - I'd say this is one public expenditure worth spending... although I strongly oppose this sin tax. I'd prefer to offer them some SALES TAX, de la MedCon.

Gill offers the best overview of the museum's financial situation I've seen - one of the strongest balance sheets in the industry:

the Cleveland museum has to deal with a volatile stock market's effect on both its endowment and the pocketbooks of dozens of grant-making institutions and more than 21,000 individual donors and members. Its largest and most dependable source of public funding — the cigarette tax — is just a $1.5 million fragment of the museum's $30 million overall budget. Other sources of public funding, such as the Ohio Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, all require separate pitches for what are comparatively small payoffs.

Franklin arrives in Cleveland at a critical time. Not only is the museum working to raise $130 million to pay off bonds that will complete a $350 million renovation and expansion; it's also approaching its 100th anniversary — a milestone that offers a one-time-only fund-raising opportunity critical for any non-profit. Its endowment, valued at more than $800 million just a few years ago, fell to around $500 million in early 2009 and sits now at about $600 million — still among the largest in the nation. Feeding the endowment, raising operating costs, and paying off construction bonds are all on the agenda.

I'll also point out operating expenses will go up - with the increased costs of the expanded facilities and operations and with some increases in utility costs when their heat provider, Medical Center Company, is forced to eliminate coal burning at their coal heat plant, and switches to natural gas - sometime in the next 24 months, I project. That will pay off for the museum in a healthier community to offer support - more people moving nearby - appreciation from all of us who care about public health and the environment, worldwide, which could be worth $millions.


 

I doubt the MCCO clean-up will increase costs for their ratepayer too much, as I'm sure MCCO will be awarded grants and public funds to help with the transition - and that may be good if done in a socially and environmentally just way.

As a Canadian, where citizens are raised to care about the environment, I expect Franklin will prefer to eliminate the association of coal burning with his institution... especially as much of the pollution created here winds up polluting his Canada - it also soils CMA's new and cleaned historic marble skin, destroys outdoor sculptures, and clouds those 1,000s of square feet of glass.

Franklin must raise $100,000,000s and manage $100,000,000s more... and optimize $billions in assets... and entertain, educate and inform millions a year, in one of the great arts palaces of modern times.

His board and staff must deal with MCCO.

I look forward to blockbuster shows by all.

Read  THE MONEY BUSINESS - The art museum's new boss gets a crash-course in American arts funding here!

Architectural model

Looking for some hope in NEO--thanks Norm for this post and laughing to myself at your ability to capture a photo that couldn't have been better staged by an architectural firm :)