(Photo: ROBERT CRAIG/THE NEWS JOURNAL )
Nationally, museums still reeling from building boom
The Delaware Art Museum isn't the only cultural institution trying to rid itself of the financial problems resulting from an ambitious expansion.
From 1994 to 2008, America's art institutions experienced one of the largest construction booms in history, spending more than $16 billion on new and renovated performing arts centers, theaters and museums, according to a study by University of Chicago researchers.
Museum leaders assumed that the new facilities would boost attendance and donations. In the end, however, starry-eyed trustees and architects intent on making a name for themselves overestimated public demand and failed to account for increased maintenance costs, according to report co-author Carroll Joynes, a senior research fellow at the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy.
The 2012 "Set in Stone" report included the Delaware Art Museum among more than 700 construction projects studied, ranging in cost from $4 million to $335 million. In 2005, the Wilmington museum nearly doubled its size in a $32.5 million project plagued by cost overruns and construction delays.
Many institutions also took a public relations hit.
"You make yourself look irresponsible," Joynes said.
How the organizations fared sometimes hinged on public bailouts.
Philadelphia's $265 million Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, for instance, was rescued from debt by local philanthropists and foundations. The American Folk Art Museum in New York, by contrast, had to sell its Midtown building to its neighbor, the Museum of Modern Art, after defaulting on $32 million in construction loans. MoMa now plans to partially demolish the building.
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This article was interesting to me. In Florida it seems that our professional sport teams and their stadiums get all the bad press for incompetent building practices, poor management and bloated budgets. Deservedly so.
Our Museums seem to be enterprises that are well managed and operate under constrained budgets.
Take the latest large-scale high-profile museum building projects; The Dali in St Petersburg and PAMM in Miami. Both completed construction on time and on budget. They have also both far exceeded expectations with their positive impact to Florida's culture and economy.
Maybe our Sports Team Ownerships should take a meeting with our Museum Boards to learn about successful private-public partnerships. GL