Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Museum of Fine Arts Braces for Layoffs the Boston Institution's 125th Birthday Coincides with Announcement of Budget Cuts

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Museum of Fine Arts Braces for Layoffs the Boston Institution's 125th Birthday Coincides with Announcement of Budget Cuts

Article excerpt

WHILE a national debate over federal funding of the arts is heating up, one of the more venerable art museums in the country -- the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) -- is continuing a cool-down mode. Major layoffs, restructuring, and program changes are expected to be announced this week.

Faced with a deficit of $4.5 million, new MFA director Malcolm Rogers on Wednesday will mark the 125th anniversary of the museum's founding with a som ber message for the future. In a New England economy pulling out of a severe recession, the museum will have to become leaner (by shedding some of its 550 employees) and more innovative. And it will need to redouble fund-raising efforts to bolster a $25-million operating budget.

Critics say it also needs a vigorously articulated vision with all departments pulling together.

Behind the belt-tightening are a number of factors. First, unlike other top-rung museums in such cities as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, the MFA receives no money from the city and only a modest amount from the state.

"Bostonians and New England have been very supportive of this museum," says Bob Mitchell, a spokesman for the MFA, "and so have corporations. Five years ago we did a show on Monet, and Digital gave us $1.3 million. Today Digital doesn't have that kind of money. And many corporations have changed their funding by responding to social and human needs instead of the arts."

The once-vaunted ability of the MFA's popular Museum Shop, and satellite stores in surrounding communities, to sell museum reproductions has all but vanished. From a high of $26 million in 1990, sales have plummeted. In 1993, profits from the stores reached only $1 million. A new manager, appointed by Mr. Rogers, took over last spring.

Rogers, the former deputy director of London's National Portrait Gallery, became MFA director last September after Alan Shestack became deputy director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington. …

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