Art college to sell pieces to help financial problems
Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 6:00 pm
By: By The Associated Press
The Messenger 07.25.12
MEMPHIS (AP) — A private art college in Memphis is dealing with its financial problems by selling off much of its art collection.
The Memphis College of Art also reduced spending by laying off four professors, cutting some adjunct faculty and eliminating some electives.
MCA officials wouldn’t disclose financial details to The Commercial Appeal beyond saying that the college cut spending by 28 percent and its budget is now balanced.
The board of trustees approved selling most of the 550-piece collection after President Ron Jones declared a financial emergency in May.
“We’re not a museum, and if I took you on a tour, you would be shocked at the condition of many of these pieces,” Jones said.
“Why should we have 550 pieces of art by people from the past when we have faculty and students who are artists, and there’s a need to raise revenue?” he said.
The works were donated during the college’s 75-year history by faculty, local artists and benefactors. Most pieces aren’t displayed and are running up storage fees, officials said.
Since the college is not a museum, it isn’t restricted by American Association of Museums guidelines that prohibit selling artworks to fund operating budgets.
Art gallery owner David Lusk is on a committee that will decide what to sell. He said some pieces date to the 1940s and 1950s and some are by artists well known locally.
“Other pieces can be sold at the annual Holiday Bazaar. Others might go to auction or to respected dealers,” Lusk said.
He said the art won’t be “dumped” on the market.
The college had 433 students last term. Its staff includes 22 full-time faculty, about 30 adjunct faculty, 40 full-time staff and 20 part-time staff.
Jones blamed the financial problems on real estate purchases for student housing, poor graduate school enrollment and unexpected maintenance, including $1.5 million in air conditioning repairs.
Jones said the school acted in time to avoid more serious financial problems.
“We recognized that there was a train wreck coming and we had to do something about it,” Jones said.
art collection, art college, Memphis College of Art