Not the only ones

Portland Museum of Art in financial trouble
By JEFF INGLIS  |  February 11, 2009

Arts and culture go begging: The Portland Symphony Orchestra go begging. By Emily Parkhurst.
For the February 1 start of its fiscal year, the Portland Museum of Art laid off six people — three of them full-time staffers. The museum had previously employed 46 full-timers and 30 part-time workers, according to Kristen Levesque, the museum's marketing and public-relations director.

The positions were not top staff — in December, the museum hired a new curator of modern and European art, and incoming museum director Mark Bessire starts March 2. Rather, the layoffs were in administrative, facilities, membership sales, and cafè positions, Levesque told the Phoenix.

"The museum's endowment, like so many non-profits, has been affected by the downturn in the economy," according to a statement from acting director Tom Denenberg. The museum had a budget of nearly $4.6 million last year, just over one-third of which comes from income from the endowment, which was as high as $35 million, but now is down to $24 million, Denenberg said in a subsequent interview. He added that the present year's budget, which just took effect, has been reduced to just shy of $4.2 million.

Nevertheless, both Denenberg and Levesque say that the museum's day-to-day operations are strong. The current show, "Backstage Pass: Rock & Roll Photography," is the second most-successful show in the museum's history, beating out last January's "Bright Common Spikes" show of works by John Bisbee. The museum's all-time top audience draw was "In Praise of Nature: Ansel Adams and the Photographs of the American West," in January 2000. (All three shows were sponsored by the Portland Phoenix.)

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