Museum seeks higher profile - East Valley Tribune: Phoenix & The Valley Of The Sun

Museum seeks higher profile

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Posted: Sunday, November 12, 2006 5:31 am | Updated: 4:46 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

As the only museum in the state dedicated to modern art, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art has made a name for itself across Arizona. The next step? The world.

Museum officials have devised a strategic plan that calls for greater emphasis on fundraising, improved technology and, ultimately, a higher profile locally and beyond.

“We want to be one of the pre-eminent modern and contemporary art museums of scale in the country,” museum director Susan Krane said.

The plan sets lofty goals, such as bringing in international artists and speakers, adding a curator for architecture and design, creating original exhibitions and touring them around the country, redesigning the museum space to improve its physical presence and overhauling the Web site to serve more people.

The first step to achieving such goals rings familiar to anyone who has worked with a nonprofit: fundraising.

Nearly all of the museum’s plans hinge on rapid growth in the amount of money donated annually by individuals, corporations and foundations.

The strategy outlines a goal to increase contributions almost 90 percent by 2010, to $1.7 million. The museum received $929,675 last year.

One way the museum plans to achieve those numbers is to expand its visibility in the community. Krane said she was thrilled about the impending boost to the downtown population, largely attributed to people moving into highrise condos.

She pointed to one community, Safari Drive, that has already purchased museum memberships for all of its future residents.

Safari Drive is being built by developer Chris Camberlango, who serves on the Scottsdale Public Art Board.

Another tactic is to study the habits of the museum’s regular visitors, using market research and to attract more visitors by improving its Web site.

Krane said the museum has not had the resources to deliver the kind of technology it desires.

“Our users tend to be ‘wired,’ or very Web savvy,” she said. “In the Valley, there are people who want access to our exhibitions who can’t make it in person.”

The museum hopes to offer podcasts of educational seminars and brochures to online guests.

The challenge that the museum and virtually all arts organizations face when trying to raise money is a downturn in philanthropic giving, said Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, who served on the task force for the Maricopa Partnership for Arts and Culture and now works in the public events department for Arizona State University.

“There was a time when there were so many key philanthropists in the country giving to the arts — Carnegie-Mellon, Rockefeller — there were lots of them and lots of giving,” she said.

“Now the issue we face is those numbers haven’t substantially grown.”

Cultural institutions are better off focusing on smaller, more numerous gifts.

“All of us sit around and daydream that one day an angel is going to sweep in with an enormous gift of $200 million,” Jennings-Roggensack said. “But a lot of organizations thrive on the backs of smaller angels.”

Another hurdle that art museums face today is competing with the public’s limited leisure time.

The museum’s success in its seven years of operation points to a healthy state of the arts, said ASU contemporary art professor Anthony Pessler.

“The contemporary arts scene is thriving in the Valley as in other places of the country,” he said.

“It speaks to the fact that when economic times are good, engagement in art seems to be a form of entertainment for the well-heeled.”

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