Excerpt from article
“Visual Arts Organizations Scramble to Survive Fundraising. Many Won’t survive.
By HOLLY HALL – September 2020
Questions of Survival
But other visual arts organizations are struggling, and many will not survive. In a June survey of more than 750 museum directors, the American Alliance of Museums found that one out of every three museums is in danger of permanent closure as revenues and financial reserves dry up. These closures “will be devastating for communities, economies, education systems and our cultural history,” the alliance’s president, Laura Lott, said in a statement.
More than 85 percent of museums had 12 months or fewer of financial operating reserves, the survey found, with more than half reporting less than six months’ worth of reserves. Even if their institutions survive, more than 60 percent of directors predict they will be forced to reduce education, programming or other services.
When museums shut down, it’s not just the loss of galleries that draw museum-goers, says Edwards at the Frist in Nashville. “A lot of these organizations provide after-school programs,” she says. “We provide after-school arts programs, and we’ve sent out people to give presentations for kids who would otherwise be without. We do other programs for seniors and others with special needs. If you lose one-third of these kinds of resources, it is a major blow to the entire country.
Among those struggling the most to raise money now are small visual arts organizations. Mary Engel runs a New York photography archive showcasing the work of her deceased parents, Ruth Orkin and Morris Engel. Their daughter founded the American Photography Archives Group in 2000. APAG is a charitable organization seeking donations on behalf of more than 200 photo archives, photographers and collectors, a few from overseas. Engel says APAG has such a small budget, just $30,000, that it was unable to get a coveted archive grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Mellon supports the arts, but for this specific grant, required visual archives to have a budget of $50,000 or more.
“I find it cumbersome to do grant applications,” Engel says. “A lot of funders don’t give general operating support. I find this very frustrating.” At one grantmaking organization founded by photographers, she recalls, “a major benefactor wanted me to use money in a way that made no sense, given COVID.” Though that benefactor relented when Engel explained her objections, the back and forth can be stressful and time-consuming.