BAMPFA responds to release of fiscal year 2018 budget

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The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, or BAMPFA, has adopted an ambitious plan for achieving a targeted budget deficit reduction of $582,000 set by the recently unveiled campus fiscal year 2018 budget, including plans to generate $850,000 in new revenue, increase its endowment by $5 million and reduce the number of scheduled exhibitions as part of cost-saving measures.

As part of its Tuesday announcement of its fiscal year 2018 budget, the campus-provided draft versions of campus divisional dashboards — budget proposals which detail the financial expectations of various campus bodies, including BAMPFA.

Campus administration plan to reduce the $110 million structural budget deficit by about $54 million over the next fiscal year, and to do so, has set budget improvement plans for nearly all divisions across campus.

Despite a years-long trend of incremental reductions in campus support to BAMPFA, the fiscal year 2018 budget sees no reduction in campus monetary support for BAMPFA, according to BAMPFA media relations manager AJ Fox. BAMPFA director and chief curator Lawrence Rinder added that he was not concerned about the state of the museum in the overall campus budget.

“I feel confident that Chancellor Christ understands the value of the arts to the core mission of UC Berkeley,” Rinder said in an email. “She has already shown support both for BAMPFA and the Arts and Design Initiative, the mandate of which is to support the arts across campus.”

That initiative — which earlier this year hosted a campuswide “Made at Berkeley” exhibition spanning multiple departments and schools — highlights the connections between the various arts-oriented facets of the campus. The “arts units” of the campus “have thus far been asked to share the burden of the deficit on an equitable and fair basis in relation to other campus units,” according to Rinder.

That’s not to say the burden is light — according to BAMPFA’s budget dashboard, the museum will have to focus “on a more limited number of prioritized programs” in response to “shifting financial realities.”

Rinder admits that this language foretells a reduction in the number of exhibitions BAMPFA will be scheduling. But he is also confident that these adjustments can be leveraged for the better.

“We should be able to do this by relatively modest changes such as increasing the amount of time that exhibitions are on view.,” Rinder explained in an email.

This, according to Rinder, would “have the added benefit of enabling greater viewership and in-depth appreciation” of the exhibits that are shown in these longer runs.

Cost-cutting aside, a common theme across many of the arts-oriented segments of campus is the importance of philanthropy and fundraising in stabilizing operating budgets against the uncertain winds of public funding. But Rinder revealed that for BAMPFA, a key change beyond hiring additional fundraising staff and restructuring internal departments has made a massive impact: location.

In early 2016, the museum completed a move from its old location on Bancroft Way — a venue deemed seismically unsafe — to its new home on Center Street.

That move has been a boon for the museum, as the more centralized, city-oriented location has attracted a wider audience than the more sequestered Woo Hon Fai Hall on Bancroft Way has in recent years, according to Rinder.

“Our confidence stems as well from the dramatic increase in attendance and membership that we have enjoyed since our move to downtown Berkeley,” Rinder said in an email. “These metrics are a signal that we will be able to enjoy a larger pool of potential donors, some of whom should be able to ‘move up the ladder’ and become significant donors and/or trustees.”

Through this confluence of increased membership and targeted fundraising, Rinder said in an email BAMPFA has projected an income goal for the fiscal year 2018 that “represents an increase of approximately $850k over last year, of which approximately $350k is intended to cover anticipated expense increases.” In this way, the museum is on track to tackle the $582,000 target set for it by Christ’s budget, according to Rinder.

Patrons of BAMPFA, and the arts in general, may have a reason to remain hopeful about the museum’s continuing prospects.

“I have seen no evidence that the arts will be specifically targeted for unusually deep cuts,” Rinder said in an email.

Imad Pasha is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Tweet him at @prappleizer.