Claremont Museum of Art to close doors on Dec. 27
Bowing to continued financial pressure and a lack of donations, the Claremont Museum of Art said today that it would close its doors to the public on Dec. 27 and move its permanent collection to a warehouse.
Officials said its board members would weigh options as to what form the museum could take in the future.
The museum, which currently rents space in a former citrus packing plant, is scheduled to move out by Dec. 31, according to leaders.
A fledgling museum with a permanent collection estimated at about 100 items, the Claremont Museum of Art billed itself as regional institution with "international significance and breadth.” During its less than three-year history, the museum featured exhibitions by artists such as Karl Benjamin and James Hueter.
The museum's financial problems came to light in October, when leaders announced that three expected donations had failed to come through. The museum subsequently laid off its entire full-time staff of five individuals but continued to operate with volunteers.
In November, the Claremont City Council donated $18,879 to the museum to keep its doors open through the end of 2009.
In the last six weeks, the museum has scrambled to raise money toward a goal of $100,000. Museum leaders estimated that the cost to run the museum for a year with one full-time employee would be about $213,000.
In the past, the museum's budget had run close to $900,000 per year.
The museum said that it was able to raise only about $26,000 in pledges toward the $100,000 goal. Those pledges were raised by soliciting local individuals, not corporations or foundations.
"We had a six-week time frame and it was our decision to go to the local community," said Ellen Taylor, a museum board member.
The museum said it had raised an additional $28,500, approximately, that would go toward paying back debt it had accumulated over the years. Currently, the museum is carrying a debt of about $70,000, according to leaders.
Board members are currently exploring ways that the museum can continue to exhibit at different locations.
"We want to remain alive as kind of a virtual museum, or if you like, a museum without walls," said Marguerite McIntosh, the founding president of the museum and a board member.
In 2008, reports stated that the museum received a $10-million gift from an anonymous donor. However, a spokesperson for the museum said that it is a deferred gift and that it can't be used for operating expenses at this time.
-- David Ng
Photo: The former citrus packing house where the Claremont Museum of Art currently resides. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times