Monetary concerns in NYC

Friday 13 Aug 2010

Financial woes deepen for American Folk Art Museum, New York City

According to the New York Times, The American Folk Art Museum is facing ‘a moment of reckoning’ as a result of the mounting debt it has incurred since opening its new building in 2001. That building designed by the New York practice Tod Williams Billie Tsein Architects was singled out by the RIBA’s World Architecture magazine in 2003 as the best building in the world. Yet in spite of its many accolades, the award-winning building and its contents has failed to attract the level of traffic projected when the project was undertaken. Attendance is half of what was projected when the museum was built. As a result the museum is scrambling to pay of the $32 million it borrowed to finance the building.

While the Folk Art Museum is the only cultural institution to default on the revenue bonds issued for it through its trust, which was created to finance capital projects, New York’s commissioner of cultural affairs, Kate Levin said the museum’s financial situation is not dire. Current cost cutting strategies include shedding staff, beefing up circulation of the museum’s magazine, and publishing more of the exhibition catalogs online. The museum has also opted to stop leasing auxiliary space at nearby East 52nd Street and is looking for additional sources of revenue. One of those sources may be the sale of air rights to the developer of the planned Nouvel tower on West 53rd. Street.

The museum is optimistic that these and other strategies will allow it to continue on as a 'leaner, smarter, more effective organisation', said Maria Ann Cornelia, the museum’s director.

Sharon McHugh
US Correspondent

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