Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Museum Association of NY: "Don't Sell Off Assets"

An interesting article from The Albany Times Union last week arguing in support of the Brodsky Bill. Ann Ackerson, the director of the Museum Association of New York, comes up with several "solutions" to the financial nightmares facing museums today. They're listed below with a bit of commentary on my part.

Among the solutions could be:

A revolving loan fund that strapped museums could tap into to buy time to restructure and figure out their next steps.

Really? And who's going to fund this "revolving loan fund"? How will these "loans" be secured, with museum assets? (read: the same artwork that is so preciously safeguarded?) Is this more Obama-esque socialism, creating a fund to be tapped by irresponsible and uninformed constituents?

A check-off box on the state personal income tax that gives residents the opportunity to make a contribution to an arts fund. (That legislation is pending.)

Great idea. Just what art needs: the continued belief that it is the public that must nurture and support flailing art institutions and irresponsible board management. Snarkiness aside, it's better than higher taxes on those with "disposable income."

Access to the state's health insurance program and aggregated energy purchasing to help lower two big chunks of operating costs.

Not bad, but stricter budget oversight may not hurt either. Let's look at travel expenses, installation fees, insurance, shipping and handling, and salaries as well.

Comprehensive board and leadership training.

Best idea on the list. What probably would save many art institutions money is stricter IRS oversight of needless spending and outrageous art project budgets. Not one for more government, there may be something to be said in mandating that all non-profit boards set aside financial resources for legal, administrative, and business training by experts, for-profit and non-profit alike. I like this one.

Let's also look at the state's current grant reimbursement system, which can keep nonprofits waiting months or years to receive project funding, forcing them to borrow funds and take on added debt.

I'm not sure there's a constitutional right to expedited treatment based solely on an entity being a nonprofit tax-exempt corporation. Shall we make flailing nonprofit museums and institutions a protected class too? The fourth factor above, or simple common sense, could remedy this mess: just don't spend what you don't have. Sound familiar?

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