Visionary Art museum needs help to surviveThe Jan. 26...

LETTERS

February 04, 1997

Visionary Art museum needs help to survive

The Jan. 26 article by Holly Selby, ''Vision comes up against reality,'' is a ''wake-up call'' for all Marylanders about the state of our cultural institutions, in general.

The reality is that without multi-million-dollar city and state subsidies, Baltimore's two major museums would be faced with closure if they could not raise the resulting annual shortfall from the philanthropic community.

Since the American Visionary Art Museum gets no significant city, state (a mere $7,500 from the Maryland Arts Council) or federal support, it is totally dependent on the revenue generated by the public attending its exhibitions and grants obtained from generous individuals, corporations and foundations.

AVAM's ability to earn nearly 50 percent of its total annual budget is both remarkable and well above the average income (27 percent) earned by all museums in the country. It is also a tribute to the quality and appeal of AVAM's first two exhibitions.

Yes, AVAM would like an annual attendance of 100,000, instead of the 60,000 paid (and more than 10,000 unpaid) visitors it had in 1996. But, we are on our way to ultimately achieving that goal. AVAM is projecting a 28 percent increase in its paid attendance for January, compared to January, 1996, and not counting the nearly 750 teachers who came free at our invitation on Martin Luther King Day.

At 100,000 annual visitors, all of AVAM's expenses, except the cost of changing exhibitions, would be covered.

A $10 million endowment campaign, mentioned in Ms. Selby's article, is intended to cover the $400,000 annual exhibition costs and to underwrite the cost of a paid executive director to replace Rebecca Hoffberger.

AVAM is confident it will raise the $250,000 needed to balance the 1997 budget. We are working on obtaining a challenge grant (also mentioned in Ms. Selby's article) of $250,000, which we believe AVAM can more than match, to assure a five-year commitment for the funds needed to balance our anticipated budgets.

Together with continued public support of AVAM's once-a-year gala celebration, this five-year commitment (to be replaced by income from our $10 million endowment) will make AVAM self-sufficient.

The museum's board knows this task is challenging, but it believes it can be done. While the reality is that AVAM is faced with uncertainty -- as is every other cultural institution in our state -- AVAM believes it has the vision to persevere and flourish.

LeRoy E. Hoffberger

Baltimore

The writer is vice president of the board of the American Visionary Art Museum.

Governor has guts to target sprawl

At last a governor with the guts to address sprawl and what it has done to our countryside and to our cities. Gov. Parris N. Glendening's "Smart Growth" legislation is vitally needed. These are sensible ideas that will help our economy and our environment.

It is time we stopped building roads for companies that leave the city, and time to reward those that locate within existing communities. It is also time to boost farmland preservation efforts. Let's move forward and pass these bills.

Deborah Bowers

Street

High cost for society's drug treatment failure

In his column of Jan. 15, Gregory Kane stated that drug testing is necessary for welfare recipients. He went on to point out that treatment slots for drug addicts are virtually nonexistent, and then, in effect, concluded "that's their tough luck." Mr. Kane's position is not only admittedly callous, it is also short-sighted.

Without adequate treatment for the addicted, it will be society's tough luck. Simply put, without access to treatment, drug addicts turn to crime to support their habit. Communities will sense a loss of security and taxpayers will foot the bill for increased admissions to emergency rooms and jails.

I have worked with addicts for the past 25 years and know that drug dependency is not a question of will-power; rather it is a symptom of social, psychological and biochemical problems. While proper treatment works well to correct these problems, kicking people off of welfare because of drug use will only further debilitate a group of people already hanging on to society by a thread.

As the director of Glenwood Life Center, a treatment program for narcotic addicts, I have seen too many good people turned away from treatment due to a lack of funds and long waiting lists.

The mayor of Baltimore and the commissioner of health are working hard to get the funding needed to open more treatment slots. In addition to being more humane, this is also a much more rational approach to the problem.

Investing the roughly $3,500 a year to treat an addict is far cheaper than spending the $35,000 it will cost to keep him or her incarcerated.

As the treatment process unfolds, many of these people become productive: they get jobs, pay taxes, raise families and make many meaningful contributions to society.

Frank Satterfield

Baltimore

Will Big Apple beat Baltimore?

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