Causes of the museum meltdown

Posted on: August 13, 2009

In an article that may have relevance to the world of orchestra administration, Ben Davis writes about the effects of the economy on museums in the arts and culture magazine Aesthetica. “Almost every week brings fresh news of museum cuts,” he writes. “By now the template is established—layoffs, hiring freezes and unpaid furloughs or pay cuts for those left.” One of the reasons that “museums are suffering is loss of city and county subsidies and support, as desperate municipalities look to trim anything that can credibly be characterized as frivolous. This has left art supporters desperately making the appeal that art actually generates jobs, trotting out any arguments that can make the case that culture is not just a luxury item—the Americans for the Arts study suggesting that art generates $166 billion in economic activity is popular. What really burns me about all this, however, is that not so long ago, it was government officials who were actively egging on arts leaders into thinking of themselves as the center of the ‘new economy.’ ” At the same time, Davis suggests, the swelling of the Internet and real estate bubbles made for an overabundance of available money. “The result—as is often the case with investment driven by an overabundance of cash—was a lot of bad investment.”

Posted August 13, 2009