Cash-strapped National Gallery vows to keep entry free
The Bermuda National Gallery is determined to maintain free admission, despite steep operating costs and a plunge in sponsorship.
BNG director Lisa Howie told
The Royal Gazette she was proud of the gallery’s commitment to keeping membership rates down, and not charging visitors.
“Where we’ve been hit the hardest is in our exhibition funding,” she said.
“That’s affected us enormously, and we’ve altered what we can offer to the community as a result.”
One local foundation that has supported the gallery constantly over its 20 years cut its support this year by 35 percent.
Meanwhile, the gallery’s annual electricity bill is creeping upward of $92,000.
The BNG has adopted a more collaborative approach with other groups as a result.
“We’ve collaborated with the Alexia Foundation to create the Eye on the World exhibit,” Ms Howie said. “That exhibit is supported by a collaboration between the gallery and CURB, who have a lecture series unpacking social issues, and making the connections back to the art on display.”
As another example, she cited an April 26 fundraiser for the BNG and the social assistance charity Family Centre.
That event, combining a tour of the gallery with a recital by pianist Mirei Tsuji, is also being billed under the patronage of the Performing Arts Centre’s founder Richard Butterfield.
Across the Island, the economic downturn has caused non-profit and charitable organisations to join forces, she said.
“On our March 1 tag day with the Dockyard Arts Centre and the Bermuda Society of the Arts and Masterworks, I think we raised more money by being a team. More important is the connection with the public you get with arts organisations unifying in terms of what they need for the society they serve.”
Financial challenges have also caused the BNG to stay true to its mission.
“Sustainability is another of our core values,” Ms Howie explained.
“We’re committed to ensuring that our growth is in line with our revenue. We’re making decisions that are prudent, and not putting ourselves in financial risk — we’re maintaining a both tenacious and flexible standard.”
She added: “Part of being transformational as a museum is to address what’s actually happening in real time. We recognise that a museum is no longer simply a repository for collections of objects. It’s an active, living, social spectacle that can play a role in social progress.”
She said a recession was the worst time to contemplate an increase in membership rates — or to contemplate charging admissions for the 20,000 or so visitors who come to the gallery each year.
“This is a time when people need us the most,” she said.
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