I came across this article in ARTnews earlier today in which it was reported that a new survey introduced by the nearly 100-year-old Association of Art Museum Directors (“AAMD”) revealed that over 61 million visitors attended art museums in the United States, Canada, and Mexico in 2014.  The AAMD survey indicates that on the whole the AAMD members’ institutions are “stable in the wake of the global financial meltdown of 2008[.]”

The new survey is said to be the most comprehensive of its kind conducted by AAMD in that it covers nearly all of the 234 total membership (220 AAMD museums across the United States, Canada, and Mexico participated in the survey).

AAMD Executive Director Chris Anagnos found it reassuring that there was not a significant change in the figures for admissions (seven percent of revenue and support) and endowment (21 percent) since a less comprehensive survey was conducted by AAMD back in 2002.

Strikingly, the survey showed that although each visitor brings an average of around $8 in revenue to museums (i.e., between admission tickets and other miscellaneous purchases at stores and restaurants), museums spend an average of about $53 per visitor.  Portland Art Museum Director Brian Ferriso (the past director of AAMD’s public affairs committee when the association initiated the survey many years ago) succinctly responds that “[Museums] rely on donations.  A museum needs to be underwritten by the community.  That needs to be told.  The fear and challenge for many of us is we are seen to play more of an entertainment function versus [being] an essential part of a community and an essential part of a city and state.  We need to be seen as more like libraries rather than movie theaters.”

I was encouraged by the results of the survey (surprised, however, that corporate memberships are so low) and look forward to viewing future surveys, which the AAMD intends to conduct on an annual basis.  The collection of the same data each year will indeed enable the AAMD to identify trends, tell a story, and provide “greater transparency” in the art field.

Click here to access the AAMD survey results.