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Seattle Art Museum to Close for Two Weeks to Balance Budget
"Thunderbird Mask and Regalia" by Calvin Hunt, at right, is part of the Northwest Coast Native American art on display at the Seattle Art Museum. AP Photo/Marcus R. Donner.
SEATTLE, WA.- Today the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) has announced a series of measures aimed at cutting expenses and achieving a balanced budget for the forthcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2010. Immediate reductions to staffing levels, other compensation-related expenses, and a two-week furlough and museum closure will be implemented as parts of successive, institution-wide efforts to create lasting financial stability at the 77-year old art museum. These measures have been designed to minimally impact SAM’s commitment to provide high-quality artistic and educational programming for Seattle and communities throughout the Pacific Northwest.

“SAM is a major cultural institution with international reach. As such, it is not immune to the revenue challenges brought on by a weak global economy,” said Derrick R. Cartwright, the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director at SAM. “We are taking steps to remedy a tough situation. There is nothing more difficult about my role than saying goodbye to valued colleagues. The decision to reduce staff is especially hard since SAM has a talented workforce. Unfortunately, since personnel expenses represent a significant portion of our expense base, the only way to bring operating costs to sustainable levels is through staff reductions.”

The personnel reductions represent approximately 7% (or 15) of the museum’s 223 full time positions and were achieved through a combination of attrition and the elimination of current positions. Additionally, after the completion of the Pablo Picasso exhibition in late January 2011, the museum plans to close its three principal buildings for a period of two weeks (January 31–February 13, 2011) as an additional cost-saving measure. Several top level administrators at SAM will accept a 10% reduction in pay for the coming year only, and Cartwright has planned for a still larger reduction to his own executive compensation next year.

“Our goal is for SAM to remain poised for excellence. We are proud of the institution’s recent successes and broad relevancy,” said Stan Savage, Chairman of SAM’s Board of Trustees. “By responding to the prolonged economic downturn with these specific measures, we can still afford to offer an admirably diverse array of artistic and educational programs in the year ahead. Once the economy improves, we expect to be in a better position to respond quickly to new opportunities as they arise.”

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