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Saint Louis Art Museum Responds to Economy with Reductions
Apotheosis of St. Louis by Charles Niehaus, 1903. Photo: Colin Faulkingham.

SAINT LOUIS, MO.- To preserve and ensure its long-term operating stability in the face of the current economic downturn, the Saint Louis Art Museum on Wednesday announced a series of cost-cutting measures intended to save the Museum in excess of $1.5 million; at the same time, it affirmed its intention to move ahead with its plans for expansion.

Revisions to the Museum's 2009 budget anticipate less revenue from the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District, reduced funding from the Museum's endowment, and lower levels of annual giving, as well as reduced income from the shop and restaurant—the latter reflecting overall reductions in consumer spending and the impact on attendance from the closure of Interstate 64 and the Hampton Avenue overpass. The Museum's endowment has suffered a loss of nearly 30 percent in the past six months.

"We rely less on our endowment than some of our peer institutions across the country," said John D. Weil, President of the Museum's Board of Commissioners. "It is none-the-less a significant source of operating revenue. Our management team has developed measured, sustainable reductions in response to these extraordinary times."

The Art Museum will eliminate all but essential travel and cut back significantly on printed materials, increasing reliance on more cost-effective web-based communications. To minimize the impact of planned reductions in staffing levels, the Museum has left a number of vacant positions unfilled and offered a second voluntary retirement incentive package to 19 staff members eligible for full or early retirement. The Museum currently employs 179 full-time staff members.

"While these reductions are not easy to make, they are necessary, and with responsible planning by our management staff and thoughtful oversight from our Board of Commissioners, I am confident we will continue to meet the challenges ahead," said Museum Director Brent R. Benjamin. "The Museum remains committed to providing unique, memorable experiences that help our visitors find meaning and inspiration in the extraordinary works of art in our galleries."

The Board and staff also reaffirmed their commitment to the Museum's planned expansion, and anticipate breaking ground by the end of this year. Last fall the Board announced a delay in its planned 2008 groundbreaking for the project, due to volatility in the short-term credit markets.

"The Art Museum's expansion project has been in the works for over a decade. It was imagined as and remains an important investment in the future of the Museum and the entire St. Louis community," said Weil. "It is being constructed with funds raised through private philanthropy, and to further ensure a stable future, more than $30 million of our initial $125 million capital campaign goal will be added to the Museum's endowment."

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