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Museum attendance falls 7.5 percent

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    Attendance at the Toledo Museum of Art was down by about 7.5 percent in the current fiscal year from the prior year, according to the museum’s annual report released this month.

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    Artist Kehinde Wiley inside his exhibit "Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic" at the Toledo Museum of Art. More than 69,300 people visited the exhibit, making it one of the museum's best attended in five years.

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Attendance at the Toledo Museum of Art was down by about 7.5 percent, or almost 34,000 visitors, in fiscal year 2017 from the prior year, according to the museum’s annual report released this month.

Just more than 423,000 people visited the museum between July 1, 2016, and June 30.

In fiscal year 2016, 457,000 people graced the halls of the museum, which was founded in 1901 by Edward Drummond and Florence Scott Libbey.

The numbers do not concern museum officials, who say that although attendance is relevant to the institution’s popularity, the museum is more interested in quality of the visitor experience over quantity, and rely on visitor feedback through such tools as Trip Advisor and exit surveys to measure that quality.

The museum is a privately endowed, non-profit facility that relies on investments and public and private support for the museum to fund its revenue pool.

“We maintain the highest quality experience we possibly can for our visitors, and take pride in not only the continued strength of our attendance, but also the continued reception by those attendees of the programs, exhibitions, and experiences that we offer them,” said Adam Levine, the museum’s associate director.

Levine said the numbers show that the museum is still almost 40,000 visitors above its 10-year attendance average of 386,000.

Museum revenues were up from last year, from $15,389,864 to about $16,495,772. Expenses were also up, from $15,384,866 in fiscal year 2016 to $16,466,897 this year. The museum generated additional revenue this year through commissioned visual literacy training workshops, increased donation boxes within the museum, and by increasing visitor parking from $5 to $7.

The museum also announced this month that it closed out the first phase of its fund-raising campaign, Polishing the Gem, in which staff reported that $43 million was raised between 2014 and 2017.

One of the biggest projects in fiscal year 2017 was the start of planning work for a five-year master plan to put together a vision for the museum campus beyond the year 2020. The museum hired New York City firm Beyer Blinder Belle to execute the plan, which is expected to be completed and released in 2018.

The museum also this year started renovations of 14,000 square feet of storage space behind the Cloister, referred to as the West Wing area, where a new gallery is expected to open in fall 2018, director Brian Kennedy said. The $2.25 million project was partially funded two years ago through Gov. John Kasich’s capital budget.

The gallery will feature “globally representative” pieces, as well as multimedia and film video work, Kennedy said.

“We have been buying for that area for the last six or seven years, and I think it will change people’s view of the museum, because traditionally we haven’t shown a lot of multimedia work,” Kennedy said in a recent interview.

Mosser Construction of Fremont was contracted to do the renovations, which started this fall.

Other highlights this year include:

CTY-WILEY10p-3

Artist Kehinde Wiley inside his exhibit "Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic" at the Toledo Museum of Art. More than 69,300 people visited the exhibit, making it one of the museum's best attended in five years.

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■ More than 69,300 people visited the show, Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, one of four main exhibitions the museum hosted last fiscal year. Others were Jaume Plensa: Human Landscape; I Approve This Message: Decoding Political Ads, and Gabriel Dawe: Plexus no. 35. The Wiley exhibit was one of the best attended exhibitions in the last five years, behind only the interactive Play Time exhibition in 2015 that drew 135,000 visitors.

■ The museum acquired about half a dozen pieces in fiscal year 2017, including Bust of a Flavian Matron, circa 90 A.D, and the large outdoor sculpture, Paula, a piece installed for the the Plensa show that stayed through private donations and the Libbey endowment.

■ The museum, in October, 2016, deaccessioned a portion of its antiquities collection, selling off 66 artifacts through public auction by Christie’s Auction House, and offering another 145 pieces to other museums or the public. The auction generated more than $950,000 to acquire new pieces for the museum collection.

■ TMA purchased the Museum Place Apartments, five historic buildings across the street, from the city of Toledo for $10, with the goal of refurbishing living spaces short-term, and creating public-driven space long term.

■ More than 7,000 people attended the museum’s fourth annual outdoor Block Party in July, up from about 3,000 that attended the year before, according to reports.

Contact Roberta Gedert at rgedert@theblade.com, 419-724-6075, or on Twitter @RoGedert.

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