Museum of Art on solid footing at year's end

Published on Saturday, 21 December 2013 22:26 - Written by By Dayna Worchel dworchel@tylerpaper.com

It’s been a good year for the Tyler Museum of Art.

It will finish this year in the black and has a new executive director in place.

And it has received a clean bill of health on some recently performed audits, those in charge said Thursday.

It’s good news for that organization after the city of Tyler stopped funding for them during the city’s 2012-2013 fiscal year, board president Verna Hall and Executive Director Chris Leahy said.

In August 2012, the city decided to cut the $44,500 in annual funds previously awarded to the museum. The cut came amid questions about the organization’s financial transparency. That amount reportedly represented about 4 percent of the museum’s total budget.

City officials had said in September 2012 that the museum funding would be restored if there were a full independent auditing of the organization’s financial records and full accounting of monies collected for their financial campaign.

Leahy, who began as executive director in July, said the museum had an audit performed of its financial statements this past summer, which the museum then delivered to the city for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

“We received a clean report from the auditor, and we showed a positive balance in our financial statement,” he said Thursday. “It’s important for us to have gotten it done, and it’s a testament to our board and our members.”

“We had our capital campaign audited between 2005 and 2012 and received a clean report on that also,” Leahy said, adding that all of the documents appear on the museum’s website.

“We have not approached the city for anything,” Ms. Hall said Thursday. She added that the museum has no plans to ask for funding. All of the past audits the city requested have been completed, she said.

“We didn’t receive any funding in 2012 (from the city) and we didn’t apply for funding in 2013,” Leahy said on Thursday.

In September 2012, the city of Tyler asked for the museum to hire a new executive director to replace Kim Tomio, who departed in 2012 to take a position at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

Officials and museum board members had also talked in the past few years about plans for a new museum location. The museum owns land off Lazy Creek Drive near The University of Texas at Tyler.

“The board and I are considering all options we have based on program requirements such as the education and exhibition programs,” Leahy said. The museum board has spent the past three months studying possible locations.

“You don’t go into any move without a great deal of thought,” Ms. Hall said. We wanted to take the time to evaluate our needs, where we are, and our education and exhibition programs. There are so many things we want to do,” she said. The 15,000-square-foot building was completed in 1971.

It’s the community, donors, museum members and Tyler Junior College that support the museum.

“We get no other support,” Ms. Hall said. “We are a community museum, supported by our community,” Leahy said.

City spokeswoman Serena Butcher said the city budget does not include funding for the museum for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

“The museum has not approached us about reinstating funding and it is not budgeted in the current fiscal year that began Oct. 1,” she said.

But there could still be another opportunity to enjoy art downtown. In July, Mayor Barbara Bass appointed an Art Center Task Force to study the creation of a downtown Tyler Art Center that could house an art institute, a gallery, classrooms and rehearsal space in the S.A. Lindsey Building at Elm Street and Broadway Avenue. The building, which was given to the city in 2010, is vacant. It has eight floors and 50,000 square feet of space.

“The Art Center Task Force is wrapping up its work and a presentation with a recommended course of action is anticipated in January or February,” Ms. Butcher said on Thursday.

Don Warren and Beth Whitney are co-chairing the Task Force, and members include Dana Cargile, Tracy Kenner, Mary Kay Lust, John Musselman, Jim Pendleton and Dr. Aubrey Sharpe. Private donations would be a primary source of funding, according to information from the city.