by Jen Graves
on Wed, Feb 25, 2009 at 2:41 PM
Seven people were laid off immediately without notice and without public announcement at the Henry Art Gallery last Friday, according to an anonymous tipper connected to one of the former employees.
The museum, contacted for comment about an hour ago, has not yet responded.
Henry Art Gallery is the contemporary art museum on the campus of the University of Washington. It is a private nonprofit but is also supported by UW; roughly 22 percent of its budget is in kind from the the university (building, electricity, heat), 20 percent more comes in money from the university, 10 percent is from the museum's endowment, and 48 to 50 percent is money the museum raises either through attendance and other earned revenue or by grants and donations.
In October, interviewed for a separate story, new director Sylvia Wolf described the museum's condition as hunkered down. As of then, the museum was still advertising for a full-time director of education and external relations, but it was also looking for places to cut.
"Are we looking at aspects of our exhibitions and programming that we might have to reconsider? Absolutely," Wolf said. "We'd be irresponsible if we weren't. Right now we're in the assessment stage. ... I don't think we can afford to wait for the other shoe to drop. We have to know that the other shoe is going to drop. We don't know when, we don't know how big that shoe's going to be, and we don't know how high it's going to fall from so how hard it's going to hit. Senior managers all the way down to junior staff are thinking—together—about how we can prepare to respond. What's important is that we are all doing it together."
According to the anonymous source, those laid off were the registrar, membership manager, communications assistant, graphic designer, development assistant, gallery attendant, and programming and events coordinator. Most of them were full-time and several had been at the museum for five years or more.
"The Henry's in a downward spiral," the source said. "There will probably be more layoffs."