One Museum’s Impact on the Economy

The Los Angeles Times‘ Christopher Knight makes an important point in his recent Culture Monster post,  namely “the inability—or the perverse refusal—of many to include jobs in the culture industry as a legitimate concern.” We at Unframed wanted to underline this point by reprinting a letter written by LACMA’s President, Melody Kanschat, to Senator Harry Reid and the other members of the H.R. 1 House and Senate Reconciliation Committee.


February 10, 2009

Senator Harry Reid
528 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Reid:

I am writing to express my disappointment about the Senate-passed bill (Sec. 1609 barring museums, zoos, and aquariums) and the House-passed bill (Sec. 1609 barring zoos and aquariums) from receiving funds through Federal economic stimulus funding.

Museums employ more than a quarter-million Americans, spend an estimated $14.5 billion annually, and rank among the top three family vacation destinations. In fact, visitors to cultural and heritage destinations stay 53% longer and spend 36% more money than other kinds of tourists. Unfortunately, the economic downturn has forced museums to struggle just to maintain essential programs at a time when your constituents need those services most.

Through the course of our regular annual business the Los Angeles County Museum of Art:
– employs 450 people in our community;
– has an annual budget of $60 million;
– serves 800,000+ visitors each year, including 15% from out of town;
– serves 250,000 children each year through school visits to museums and programs in the schools;
– offers free or subsidized admission to over 400,000 visitors.

In addition the museum is currently engaged in an $85 million campus expansion program with financing procured and donations committed that:
– employs 400+ construction, architectural, engineering and management workers;
– improves, widens, and upgrades 4 major intersections serving over 100,000 cars per day;
– will extend our services to an additional 200,000 visitors per year.

And we have 5 shovel ready projects on hold due to the current economic conditions that:
– total $142.7 million in spending over the next 3 years;
– would produce 900 direct jobs for people in the construction, architectural, engineering, and management fields;
– would produce 1,926 indirect jobs (2.4 indirect jobs for each direct job);
– would produce 1,988 induced jobs (14 jobs for each $1 million spent);
– would add 50 artistic, scholarly, and museum professional positions to our full time employment ranks.

It is unfathomable to me that the economic impact that museums, zoos, and aquariums have on our community is not considered a viable stimulus alternative. They are in fact economic engines and a central part of our nation’s cultural and educational infrastructure.

I hope we can count on you to recognize that the completion of museum, zoo, and aquarium projects will be critical in the economic recovery of cities and localities, and that you will support the deletion of this language when the House and Senate versions are reconciled in committee.


Melody Kanschat

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