The Taubman Museum of Art is re-inventing itself with the goal of becoming the cultural hotspot of our community. We've taken a look this week at the innovative and energetic new people in charge people and their plans to make it happen. But it won't happen unless the revenue comes in. Tonight in the State of the Taubman – a look at the financial challenges ahead.
"I think it's very doable. I would not have come here if I did not feel that it was doable."
Regina Rodwell-Bell is the Deputy Director of Development and Marketing at the Taubman. She was hired in July and is charged with raising more than 2-million dollars annually.
20-percent of the Taubman's revenues come from Nora's Café, and the Museum store, and events like weddings. The rest of the 2.8-million dollar annual budget has to be raised.
"Yes. It's a challenge. There's no doubt, it is a challenge. But there is a lot that the museum offers to the community that we just need to make the community understand what we do have here, so it's relative to what their needs are and I think we can do that.
Admission to the museum is now free – but that means that people are hesitant to buy memberships – which are typically the base of any successful museum.
"The Richmond metropolitan area has a half a million people. So of those 500,000 the Virginia Museum of Arts is lucky enough to have 40,000 members," said Executive Director Della Watkins. "So here in Roanoke there are 8 counties touching my area there are two cities, Salem and Roanoke. And we too have -- within a wider girth -- 500,000 folks. Currently I have about 2,000 members."
So Watkins and the team face a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. They want the Taubman to host exhibitions that are talkers for the whole region… They want people to become members largely to support he effort -- but people may not do that – until there's more to see.
The Taubman doesn't have the rich history or deep pockets of The Virginia Museum of Art -- according to Watkins, among the most successful on the country – so that may be setting the bar too high. But there is no doubt the grassroots support has to be better if the Taubman is to flourish.
But Watkins is determined. "I've to tempt ‘em to get here. And I'm down here and what I'd like them to do is have my everyday members -- the people who just want to come even once. To see this as a worthy important, cultural -- I say as the cultural heart of our region."