Aspen Art Museum and its ‘big suckers’ doing things right |

Aspen Art Museum and its ‘big suckers’ doing things right

Aspen Art Museum and its ‘big suckers’ doing things right

It’s hard to know where to begin in response to the screed about the Aspen Art Museum by Glenn Beaton. For someone with such obvious ignorance about the subject matter of which he writes, Mr. Beaton’s column is a masterpiece of unintended humor – at his own expense.

Let’s start with his incredibly foolish idea that the donors who privately funded the entire cost of the museum did so only to get their names on the wall. He refers to such donors as “big suckers” and laments that “real artists can’t make a living because the so-called patrons of the arts spend their money to buy a spot on the list rather than a piece of art.” In fact, the Aspen Museum donors, and almost all museum donors worldwide, are serious art collectors who buy lots of “pieces of art” and who support artists in many different ways. One of those ways to support artists is to make certain that museums exist in which their art can be displayed to and enjoyed by the public.

If Mr. Beaton had any knowledge of either the art world or the museum world – and it is painfully apparent that he does not ­— he would know that every museum in the world proudly lists the names of its supporters. Indeed, most philanthropic organizations gratefully give credit to those who support their mission. The donors to such organizations do not contribute their personal funds to get their names listed; they do so because they support the organizational mission.

Then there is Mr. Beaton’s complaint that about a quarter of the museum’s funds are employed for fund-raising. In fact, private museums must continually raise funds in order to carry out their mission. The Aspen Art Museum provides all sorts of free services to residents of the Roaring Fork Valley. The Museum hosts hundreds of local school children each year, providing them with free lunches. It provides programs for local artists and for the community at large. It must pay to acquire and install the several exhibitions it shows each year. It must pay its staff, its insurance, its publications, and myriad other expenses. Where does Mr. Beaton think the money for this comes from? It’s certainly not from his visit to the museum, which is free for him and everyone. It comes from donors, or, as he might put it, “big suckers” who provide the funding for the Museum to operate.

In any event, of the over 35,000 museums operating in the United States, the Aspen Art Museum was one of four museums to be awarded the 2017 National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It must be doing something right for the U.S. government to give it such prominent recognition.

Don Kaul


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