Where is Jersey City’s Eli Broad? Budget Crisis Forces Museum To Close Its Doors

by Paddy Johnson on January 25, 2011 · 3 comments Newswire

Jersey City Museum, now closed

Someone needs to rescue the Jersey City Museum, because its board members haven’t been successful. The museum has been closed since Christmas with no indication of reopening its doors. NJ.com reports that the museum’s hoped-for partnership with New Jersey City University failed, forcing museum officials to once more shutter the museum. Between April and August of 2010, the museum was open only on Saturday afternoons. A victim of funding cuts, poor management, and a small donor base, the museum has fallen behind on mortgage payments for a multi-million-dollar renovation completed 10 years ago.

JC.com was only able to reach one board member for comment – Ofelia Garcia, who agreed to do so over email. She simply said that these were hard times for the museum, and that a “working group from the board” is planning programs “appropriate to the current economic condition: that is a reduced budget for the foreseeable future.”

But what kind of programs could the museum be planning when it’s closed and without an operations budget? Between 2007 and 2009 the museum received $625,000 a year. In 2010, it received $500,000. This year, it receives nothing at all. Jersey City has its own budget crisis, and state funding has disappeared, too.

This sucks, but it shouldn’t be the end of the museum. Surely there is a wealthy benefactor out there willing to donate $625,00 million to save an entire institution. Where is Jersey City’s Eli Broad?

Back in April I reported on the museum’s troubles, noting the huge loss the public would suffer should it close. Former staff of the museum almost unanimously expressed pride in the museum’s educational programs, the only programs of its kind in the city. Tours and workshops based on the museum’s permanent and temporary exhibitions exposed students to artists such as Xenobia Bailey, Papo Colo, Raphael Ortiz, Chakaia Booker, Ben Jones, William Pope L, Melvin Edwards, and Rodriguez Calero.

This is a serious loss, but without the help of a donor, I’m worried the situation could get worse. With virtually no income to speak of, and a mortgage to pay down exceeding $2.9 million, will the museum be able to maintain the integrity of a collection that not only contains art works by some of the city’s leading contemporary artists, but works dating back more than a century. Don’t let these treasures become assets to a bank trying to recoup its losses on an unpaid debt.

Correction: This post erroneously stated the museum would need 1.2 mil. to hire back its staff for a year.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rwboyd Robert Boyd

    Where do you get your numbers? I am looking at their 2009 form 990 (July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009). Their total expenses were $1.6 million. (And their total revenue was, alas, $1.35 million.) This was basically true the previous year as well. So Jersey City’s Eli Broad would have to cough up a lot more than $600K. And even if such a person exists, that only gets them through one year.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the heads up. I corrected the post, though I was really only speaking of replacing the lost income from the city.

    But listen, successful fundraisers can collect far more than 1.6 million a year. It’s a lot harder to do this though when the museum is closed.

  • Franc Palaia

    It is quite sad to see the Jersey City museum die a slow death, considering it is one of the oldest museums in NJ when it started in the Public Library. Hudson County, with the highest number of artists and the densest population should have its own museum.
    I have exhibited in the museum several times over a 22 year period which includes a solo show in 1982, and have works in the collection. As much as I dislike the trend of large corporations buying large public stadiums, arenas, etc.(CitiField, Izod Stadium, etc) perhaps there is a possibility of bringing the museum back from the brink by announcing the”Jersey City Nike Museum” or the “Jersey City Whole Foods Museum”!! How about the “Trader Joe’s Museum of Contemporary Art of Jersey City”? or TJMOCAJC, for short. Not a great acronym.
    We all cringe at this at first but after a while, who cares whose name is on the wall as long as the museum is open and serving the community. There is an old Chinese proverb, “It doesn’t matter what color the cat is, as long as it catches the mouse”. Perhaps a major search for corporate sponsorship should start immediately.
    Good Luck,
    Franc Palaia

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