The budget package was unveiled Wednesday for the Tyler City Council, which is expected to conduct a public hearing on the matter later this month before possible adoption next month.
Museum officials said Wednesday that while the city’s decision to possibly withdraw $44,550 in support was not unexpected, it was certainly “a blow.”
“It’s a slap in the face,” Verna Hall, president of the Tyler Museum of Art Board of Directors, said, noting the funding award constitutes about 4 percent of its annual budget.
In the previous three years’ budgets, the city allotted $44,550 annually to museum operations.
But this year’s proposal suggests that no funds be given to the museum and specifies that $50,000 be earmarked for a yet-to-be-revealed project called the “Arts & Innovation Institution,” but no one is saying exactly what it entails.
Mayor Barbara Bass said Tuesday during an editorial board meeting with the Tyler Morning Telegraph only that the city is committed to building a viable arts community.
“We’re interested in having arts in the downtown area,” she said, repeating the commitment again after the budget proposal was unveiled.
City-owned land that once housed King Chevrolet is available for development.
But museum officials want to build a $50 million facility closer to The University of Texas at Tyler, 3900 University Blvd.
The fallout, Mrs. Hall said, came when talks fell through to relocate the Tyler Museum of Art downtown.
It’s unclear when, or if, there is room for compromise.
“We remain very interested in promoting the Business, Arts and Culture District in Downtown and having an art related anchor that is within reach,” Mayor Bass said in an email. “We had been working on a plan with TMA to achieve this; however the board ultimately decided against moving to property owned by the city in downtown. We have been in discussions with another entity interested in fulfilling this mission. Despite significant recent turnover in membership on the TMA Board, and what appears to be a stalled capital campaign, we remain in communication with TMA leadership about their future plans.”
“I understand where they’re coming from a little bit, but deep down, I told somebody, it’s like kids that get in spats with each other and say, ‘Well I don’t like what you’re doing so I’m going to take my toys and go home,’” she said. “I wish we were better able to work things out, but that just didn’t happen in this case, so we’ll just move on.”
However, Mrs. Hall said the city’s decision will have no impact on the immediate, day-to-day functions of the museum or its planned exhibitions such as the upcoming “Wyeths Across Texas” exhibit.
“All of that is set,” she said. “We’re just going to have to put on our work gloves and come up with something to offset this money, which we will do. This too shall pass and we will rise above it.”
Kim Tomio, who recently announced her resignation as director of the museum, thanked the city for its years of support and appealed to the council Wednesday to reconsider the funding.
“It’s important for Tyler for its only art museum to have support from the city,” she said.
Mayor Bass congratulated the outgoing director on her new career opportunity and thanked her for bringing first rate exhibits to Tyler.
“You’ve really raised the bar,” the mayor said, avoiding discussion on Ms. Tomio’s request to reinstate the museum’s money.
Ms. Tomio said afterward she was “saddened” by the cut because the money signifies more than simply financial support.
“It shows that city of Tyler supports the cultural institutions for which the fund is used to support, to encourage tourism. The art museum is one of the premiere cultural institutions, not only in Tyler but in East Texas,” she said. “We feel that we produce world-class exhibitions that bring people from all over the USA and even from outside the USA and we do promote the city through all of our publications and PR marketing pieces. We’ve always listed the city a major supporter or sponsor of the institution, so this is going to feel very different with the city no longer partnering with us.”