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MAPR Designs Ways To Raise $8 Million Annual Operating Cost

Creating an Endowment Fund for the museum involves legislation to facilitate the donations


August 24, 2000
Copyright © 2000 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Most Puerto Rico residents who visit the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico (MAPR) say they’re proud of the newly inaugurated facility.

And it’s that pride officials want to tap into to raise the $8 million they need to run the 130,000-square-foot institution.

Once the excitement of inaugurating the MAPR has abated, officials have faced the stark reality of needing hefty amounts of money to keep the $55.2 million investment on the right track. While planning exhibits and attractions at the museum—including the locally created lace theater curtain, stained glass doors, and wood benches—bore fruit, officials say the fiscal end of the plan wasn’t as bountiful.

"It took four years to build and bring this museum to fruition," said Executive Director Carmen Teresa Ruiz de Fischler. "But a lot of this financial planning had not been done and we’re doing it now as we go along."

The museum has divided its fundraising efforts to include the government, the private sector, its own facilities, and an endowment fund. The first undertaking is aimed at the government not just because the Government Development Bank (GDB) owns the building, but also because officials say the museum serves the 3.8 million island inhabitants in more ways than one.

"This museum has been designed so it can generate a substantial amount of revenue through services provided to the community," Ruiz de Fischler said.

With that in mind, museum officials are asking the Legislature for a $1.2 million recurrent allocation. That proposal was not approved during the last regular session ended June 30 and officials hope it is given the green light in the extraordinary session that begins August 21. "If not, it will be the order of the day for whatever administration is in power in January," said Ruiz de Fischler.

The museum also is negotiating with the GDB for a contribution to cover the very high maintenance costs. The GDB already assigned $3 million for the museum’s first year and $2 million for its second year of operation.

"We’re discussing the possibility of receiving a number in that ballpark," Ruiz de Fischler said. "Because if the bank made this capital investment, it wants to make sure that the museum doesn’t decay."

Museum officials expect the Municipality of San Juan to contribute $250,000 to the electric bill, which adds up to $800,000 a year. This is mostly because of the air conditioning, which must be kept on 24 hours a day, she said.

A second source of income will come from the museum itself, which will rent its facilities for corporate and government activities. The Great Hall, which opens through the imposing stained glass doors into the sculpture garden, can seat up to 400 people and will be available for banquets and cocktail parties.

"On those evenings, we will open the galleries and charge a gallery fee so that the company can not only have its social activity but its guests can have access to the collection," said Manuel De Juan, Managing Partner of Market Access, who has been recently tapped by the MAPR to serve as Senior Advisor for Marketing, Special Events, and Protocol.

The museum also is renting space to Pikayo, chef Wilo Benet’s restaurant, which will soon open its doors to the public at its new location. And sponsors can see their names up in lights at one of the 17 exhibition galleries of the five-floor museum. Small galleries can be sponsored for $150,000 and large galleries go for $300,000 over a 10-year period.

"Accesa and Puerto Rico Telephone sponsored the gardens," said Ruiz de Fischler. "B. Suarez is sponsoring one of the small galleries, Banco Santander is sponsoring one of the large galleries and Bertita and Guillermo Martinez [of GM Group] are sponsoring another large gallery."

Other corporate friends include Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, which sponsors the 400-seat theater, and Doral Financial. Individual friends include 2,208 members who have yielded nearly $100,000 between June and July with their membership fees. Members receive such perks as unlimited visits and discounts at the store, among others.

"The $50 individual and $100 family memberships are filling up quickly," the executive director said.

The museum store, which includes works by Puerto Rican artisans, sold about $40,000 in merchandise during its first month of operation. Officials are hoping the store can do about $200,000 a year in business, including e-commerce through the museum’s web page

"We want to have access to Puerto Ricans who live around the world and want to keep in touch with their culture and their roots," Ruiz de Fischler said.

Last month, up to 20,000 visited the museum, but as August came along and kids went back to school, attendance dropped to about 5,000 for the first two weeks. The projection is that with visiting international and local exhibits, and with adequate promotion and integration into the community, the museum will generate about 200,000 visitors a year.

Officials say they will keep the entrance fee at $5 for adults and $3 for children even if other museums in the U.S. are charging $10 and $12 entry fees. "We’ve kept the entry fee the same as a movie so that it can be accessible to Puerto Rican families," said Ruiz de Fischler. "And we’re contacting corporate sponsors so they can pay for disadvantaged communities and cover the entrance fees of 10,000 to 20,000 families and their children."

The last leg of the fundraising effort, which is still in the design phase, is the creation of an endowment fund. Officials hope the fund, which currently holds about $2 million, will grow to a whopping $50 million, so it can yield $5 million yearly in interest.

Endowment funds, Ruiz de Fischler said, are fed by donations from family estates and corporations. "We’ve joined with other non-profit organizations to lobby the Legislature to approve laws that will create incentives for families and corporations to donate funds to non-profit institutions," she said.

In January, the museum will inaugurate the Family Gallery, which is aimed at children from third grade to high school. The gallery, designed by the U.S. architect who created the Family Gallery at the Chicago Art Institute, will include interactive exhibits to introduce youngsters to art in all of its conceptions. No additional fee will be charged for visitors to have access to that innovative addition to the museum, the executive director said.

"We want the museum to become part of the day-to-day lives of Puerto Ricans so that they visit the MAPR because that’s where they will feel proud of the work of their greatest creators," Ruiz de Fischler said.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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