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Monday, 5 April 2010

PMA's Rub Takes Charge

Gets Serious About Fundraising
By Richard Carreño
Junto Staff Writer Bio
Whether Timothy Rub, the director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, can be as slick as his predecessor, the late Anne d'Harnoncourt, in courting big donors, time will tell. The museum, suffering from financial doldrums in the after-shocks Wall Street down-turns, needs to reach out like never before.

One sure-fire way of doing that is by inviting, cajoling, and flattering heavy-hitters to join the museum's board. The museum has been weak in doing this. Rather, many appointments seem to smack more of politically-correct marquee placements than what the instituation really needs -- fabulously rich people. Who, by the way, possess fabulously rich art collections.

As for conventional fundraising beyond new strides in expanding membership, the PMA has much its donor base sewn up in our village of Philadelphia. Now Rub, appointed last year just as the museum was hitting bottom financially, now has to open that base to an increasing national, even international, audience.

He got serious last week by appointing Kelly M. O'Brien, who's been cooling her heels as interim development director since October, as the permanent director. In recent years, believe it or not, the development slot has pretty much been dormant.

'We felt it was critical to appoint someone who understands this institution, can build upon our past fund-raising successes, and provide the leadership required to strengthen all aspects of our work in this area, with individuals, foundations, and corporations,' Rub said.

Gail Harrity, the PMA's chief operating officer, said O'Brien will, among other challenges, seek to bolster the museum's endowment 'to strengthen its finances, enhance the collections and programs, address critical capital needs, and renovate and expand the museum's facilities.'

That last challenge target involves the $500-million construction of underground galleries, fanning out in an apron under Eakins Oval. The new facility, to be designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, is technically still a 'go.'

Stephan Salisbury, reporting in The Inquirer last week, noted that the museum's endowment has rebounded from a low of about $250 million at the end of 2009.

'... [T]he museum is depending on it for about 25 percent of the $50-million-plus operating budget,' Salisbury said. 'In addition, city operating support, which has been $3 million in 2008, is down by about 20 percent. Faced with grim numbers, the museum eliminated 30 positions last year.'