Deeply in Debt, Fayetteville Museum of Art Forced to Close

While it seems like, in financial news, we’ve been on a slow but upward trajectory, things are still on shaky ground within the museum industry. Following a very rough ’08 and ’09, and this past March’s news that the Smithsonian-affiliated Fresno Metropolitan Museum had run out of money and was closing, the Fayetteville Museum of Art in North Carolina is the latest casualty of the economic collapse. After 38 years of operation, have closed their doors. Just three years ago, reports the local Fayetteville Observer, the museum was flying high, even planning a $15 million project to construct a new building for itself. But then that planning got too pricey and a large chunk of their government funding evaporated, both of which damaged the museum’s apparently already troubled method in which it was handling its finances. Although the paper reports that things had gotten slightly better over time, and it looked like the museum might be able to survive, the news that they were $500,000 in debt was enough to force the trustees to shut it all down. Although the museum has released a statement (pdf) saying it hopes to reopen some time in the future, it seems difficult that that would be an option in the foreseeable future. Here’s from the president of the museum’s trustees, Meredith Player Stiehl:

“The trustees for the Museum have agonized over the decision to close the Museum after two years of steady focus on improving financial operations. Many factors have made our decision for us. Everyone is concerned about their future in the present economy, but it is an especially difficult economy for non-profits. Museums for art and culture around the country are finding themselves in the same position. Economics does play a part in the decision, but there are other factors. Museums with faithful operational grants, a more established donor base or large endowments are in a stronger position to survive.”

A sad loss for the residents of Fayetteville and, sadly, likely not the last museum closure we’ll see this year, despite signs of recovery.