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Attendance Up, But Atheneum In The Red

November 17, 2005
By MATTHEW ERIKSON, Courant Staff Writer

Attendance is up more than 20 percent at Hartford's Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Coleman H. Casey was elected new president of the museum's board of trustees and Bruner/Cott Architects is on board for the redevelopment of the former Hartford Times building. Still, the museum is confronting a $1 million budget deficit.

That mix of good and bad news came out of the Atheneum's annual meeting Wednesday evening. In his director's report, Willard Holmes summarized the current course of the nation's oldest public art museum with words of "cautious optimism." Holmes said the museum has turned a corner from the low attendance of recent years.

For the first four months of the museum's current budget year ending June 2006, the number of visitors was up 23 percent compared with the same period in the year before, and admission revenue was 20 percent higher. In October, the Atheneum opened the popular "Dalí, Picasso and the Surrealist Vision" show, the first of several exhibitions designed around the return of masterworks in the museum's permanent collection from national and international tours. Programs such as "Collage," which caters to young professionals with D.J.s and cocktails, have been oversubscribed.

"Unless we translate that success to the museum's annual fund, we're going to fall short of our ambitions to balance the budget," Holmes said in an interview before the annual meeting.

According to the financial report issued Wednesday, the Atheneum ended budget year 2005 $1,065,695 in the red. Holmes says that individual philanthropy and corporate contributions are key to the museum's future economic viability.

"The current economic climate is not really that strong," said Holmes.

Fundraising is one of the important responsibilities of the board president. Casey, an attorney and partner of Shipman & Goodman, was elected Wednesday to the position. He succeeds John H. Motley, the executive director of external affairs at Hartford Public Schools, who had completed a two-year term.

Casey served as senior vice president of the Atheneum's executive committee since 2004 and has been a trustee since 1990. His other community affiliations include the Hartford Symphony Orchestra (where he served as president), Greater Hartford Arts Council, Mark Twain House, Hospital for Special Care, Cedar Hill Cemetery Association and Foundation, the Saunders Foundation, H.A. Vance Foundation, Connecticut Public Radio and WALKS Foundation.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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