“It’s much worse now,” says George Ellis, director of the Honolulu Academy of Arts from 1982 to Feb. 1, 2003, about the difference between the financial situation for Hawai’i arts organizations now and the economic downturn following the attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
“It wasn’t a global situation, and it didn’t affect endowments,” explains Ellis by phone from his home in Florida. He sympathizes with what the Academy is going through now. While visitorship and giving took a dip post-9/11, the museum’s income from its endowment held steady. Today the Academy—along with all of Hawai‘i’s museums—face a double whammy of decreased giving and the evaporation of income, a result of endowments losing a third of their value.
In the meantime, the staff of all of the museums in Honolulu have rolled up our shirtsleeves and doubled up on our workloads to make sure that we can all still serve the community, through education programs, exhibitions, films, free activities, and a lot more. The Academy’s full-time staff has been trimmed down to 98 people, from about 130 at the end of 2007. Yet we have not reduced our offerings to adults and children.
But we’re stretched as thinly as possible. There is nothing better about working here than seeing kids—and their docent—lying on the ground looking up at the Chihuly glass “Reef” and shouting out what they see. Museums offer you an experience you can’t get anywhere else. Today alone you can come here and grab the tines of a Harry Bertoia sculpture to make a big noise in the gallery, see a film about the search for the reincarnation of a Tibetan lama, get a free Spotlight Tour on Roman art, go around the world through our museum-wide exhibition of Charles Bartlett works, have lunch in the Pavilion Cafe, attend a class at the Academy Art Center at Linekona, and browse The Academy Shop. It costs thousands of dollars just to open the doors of the museum each day and keep the art collection in good shape. Help us keep on serving you, and the children of Hawai‘i by attending our fundraising events, becoming a member, or simply giving a donation. Even just $5 can pay for a child’s school tour. We need your help!