Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Message from Brian Allen

A Message from Brian Allen, Addison Gallery Director

These are indeed extraordinary times for the Addison and the museum world. I am writing to you today to offer some thoughts on what is happening at the Addison in the context of our country's - and the world's - challenging and indeed perilous economic conditions.

It is obvious that everyone is affected. As Barbara Chase correctly observed in her recent good report to Phillips Academy alumni, students, faculty, staff, and parents - in this climate there is really no place to hide. The Addison is not immune to these challenges, and the Gallery as I see it will be affected in five basic ways:

1. Our endowment is part of the school’s, and though the school’s endowment has dropped less than most, the income available to the Addison will nonetheless drop. About 55 percent of our revenue comes from this source, with our drawdown based on a rolling average of thirteen quarters. While this affords us some cushion, the Addison will feel the impact of this drop in the endowment for some time to come.

2. A substantial portion of our annual income comes each fiscal year from gifts from individuals and foundations. We recently sent out our first appeal. Again, I know that everyone is affected. Giving to the arts will most likely suffer. A museum director has to be an optimist to succeed, however. Our donor base is loyal. The Addison “cause” is of the very highest quality. The letter makes a strong case for support.

3. There is a large hole in the ground on the Addison site with construction workers busily producing an expanded, renovated building. We are fortunate that we achieved over eighty percent of our construction goal before the onset of the financial crisis. Though Addison supporters have been generous, we still have $8.5 million of our $30 million construction and endowment goal to go. Again, our donor base is strong. It might take us longer but ultimately we will reach our target.

4. The Addison partners with many institutions as we send our traveling shows out to the world. I made a tally a few weeks ago that surprised even me - our Addison organized shows have traveled to over 40 cities in America, Europe, and even Australia over the last few years. When our shows travel, we get rental income that pays the cost of assembling them. Our exhibition schedule is planned through the spring of 2012, and almost all of the traveling slots for our shows are filled. This is a tribute to the quality of our exhibitions - people in other museums are enthusiastic about taking our shows. Again, I come back to my recurring theme that everyone is affected. Many museums will suffer badly as the economic crisis unfolds. It is not inconceivable that one of our partners will cancel programming for financial reasons, leaving us with a gap in expected income as well as a hole in our traveling exhibition schedule. I am working to minimize this chance by partnering only with institutions that historically have been financially stable.

5. Like every other department of Phillips Academy, the Addison will reduce its budget by 2 percent. Earlier I described myself as an optimist but in one thing I am decidedly pessimistic. I think the economic downturn will be deep and will last quite a long time. The staff and I here at the Gallery will look not only at reductions allowing us to comply with the 2 percent guideline set by the school, but we will also look at everything we do with the belief that changes we make now will prevent more painful changes later. If we do not realize our annual appeal expectations, we will have to reduce more. All of us have to understand and accept that there will be some things we hope and want to do that we will not be able to do under current circumstances.

The Addison will weather this storm. On this, I am a most passionate and committed optimist. Our collection continues to grow. Donors continue to support us with gifts of money and art. We are producing exciting shows and catalogues. New donors are supporting us, and we are keeping in touch with our longtime donors. The Addison will be here serving students, artists, connoisseurs, and lovers of art for many, many years to come. For all the economic troubles at our door step and the world’s, the Addison has much for which to be thankful: the progress we have made in our campaign, the great reception our shows receive when they travel, and the continuing support and warm wishes of our friends and the audience we serve.

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