The Bellevue Arts Museum in turmoil

Located in Bellevue (150,000 inhabitants) in the state of Washington, a city which borders Seattle, the Bellevue Arts Museum (BAM) is facing significant financial difficulties, which have gradually worsened in recent years. The museum has just launched an emergency campaign in the hope of raising $300,000 (276,000 euros) and thus being able to stay afloat. If it does not raise the necessary funds in the next six weeks, Kate Casprowiak Scher, the executive director of the BAM, believes that a closure will undoubtedly have to be considered.

The money raised during the campaign would primarily cover the museum’s operating expenses, including employee salaries (44 in 2021) and building maintenance costs, as well as caterers for its next gala. . The crisis is believed to be primarily the result of a lack of long-term funding, the pandemic, rapid turnover of staff and administration, and a reprioritization of donors.

“A lot of our problems started 24 years ago when this building opened. They built this beautiful 40,000 square foot building by Steven Holl, but they didn’t raise any money for an endowment fund” explains Kate Casprowiak Scher.

Added to this is the fact that the BAM does not have a permanent collection. It is more of an art center which must borrow all the works of art to design exhibitions, which is very expensive. For Kate Casprowiak Scher, this situation is a vicious circle since the museum cannot attract visitors and generate revenue without offering attractive exhibitions, and these cannot be organized without the necessary funds.

Although they have worsened recently, the institution’s financial difficulties are not new. The museum was notably forced to close its doors to the public in 2003, before reopening in 2005 thanks to a campaign which allowed them to raise 3 million dollars (2.8 million euros). BAM tax documents also reveal that the museum has ended up in a deficit almost every year since 2010. In 2022, this deficit was around $809,000 (745,000 euros), while the majority of the museum’s revenue (2. 1 million dollars in total, or 1.9 million euros) came from public subsidies and donations.

Created in 1975, the BAM organizes exhibitions of contemporary art, crafts and design. It notably highlighted the works of the American architect Louis Kahn (1901-1974) in 2016 and those of the Australian designer Simon Hanselmann (born in 1981) in 2019. Since 2001, the institution has been installed in a building on three levels of 3,700 m², built by architect Steven Holl.

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