As a sign that the Arkansas Arts Center feels its ship has been righted and is now on course, the Board of Directors voted today to include 3 percent raises to staff, both management and non-management, in its 2014 budget.
Arts Center had projected revenues of $5,903,399 for the 2013 fiscal year and expenses of $5,903,354 (a difference of only $45). Pretty tight budgeting there; the Arts Center's come a long way from the curse put on it by the "World of the Pharaohs" exhibition (and some funny business by a former staffer that was settled with the Foundation), which left it with a budget deficit of $1.6 million in 2009. The 2014 budget of $6,042,000 is just slightly higher than last year's and is "conservative," board member and finance chair Mary Ellen Vangilder said. The year will be the first full year with its curatorial staff, who came on board last December thanks to a grant by the Windgate Foundation. The Arts Center will also receive a welcome infusion of money from the city of $400,000, part of its promise to voters in the 2011 penny sales tax election. The city had reduced its contribution to the Arts Center, once $800,000, to $200,000 in recent years because of its own budget problems.
The "Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: Treasures of Kenwood House, London" exhibit that opened Thursday to members and Friday to the public, had 2,125 visitors between Thursday night and Sunday. Opening night brought in a crowd of 1,250, 430 of them piling into the children's theater and the lecture hall for talks by Julius Bryant of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The show is credited with producing 87 new memberships at the Arts Center. (Members may see the show for free, among other perks.)
Attendance was up 5,567 over 2012, Herman also reported.
Staff discussed maintenance needs for the Arts Center, which are not budgeted for 2014. The Children's Theatre needs a new projector, audio and rugs; the Wolfe and Rockefeller gallery lights are obsolete — there were just enough for the Kenwood House show, Herman said. Rugs in the gift shop and restaurant need replacing. And so forth.
Herman also talked about the 2014 exhibition lineup, including:
"Face to Face," artists self portraits from the collection of Jackye and Curtis Finch, which will be paired with "Portraiture Now: Drawing on the Edge" from the National Gallery. They run Oct. 25 through Feb. 9, 2014, though the new website — that's another story altogether, thumbs down on the redo — says Feb. 9, 201.
"Mark Rothko in the 1940s: The Decisive Decade," which will illustrate the development of the artist and include the 1949 "Untitled," a masterpiece in yellow, purple, black and green that Herman said is one of the most valuable paintings in the National Gallery collection. Also Oct. 25-Feb. 9, 2014.
"The Crossroads of Memory: Carroll Cloar and the American South," now showing at the Brooks Museum in Memphis (800 on its opening night last week, a record-breaker for the Brooks) and which includes several pieces from the collection of former Arts Center board member Bobby Tucker. It will run Feb. 28, 2014, to June 1, 2014.
Non-management had a 2 percent cost of living raise in 2011; management had not had a raise since 2008. In fact, management took a 10 percent pay cut in 2012. That pay was restored last month to Arts Center Director Todd Herman and Director of Operations Laine Harber. (With their new pay raise, Herman will make about $165,000 and Harber $103,000.)