MFA CONFIRMS STAFF LAYOFFS, BUDGET CUTS

Responding to an increasing deficit, the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) announced cost-cutting moves last week. Museum director Malcolm Rogers reduced the staff of 550 by 83 employees, slashed next year's budget by $3.4 million, reorganized museum departments, and thinned out the schedule of future exhibitions.

The hope is to eliminate a $4.5 million deficit on an operating budget of nearly $25 million. ``At the end of the fiscal year 1994-95, we will declare our last deficit,'' Mr. Rogers says.

Recently, corporate funds supporting the MFA had tapered off. Profits from museum stores had fallen, museum attendance was dropping below 1 million visitors a year, and major shows weren't contributing to financial stability.

In addition, the formulation of a well-articulated vision for the museum had been on hold before Rogers became director of the 125-year-old museum nearly six months ago.

``The job of the director has changed dramatically over the years,'' says Diane Frankel, director of the Institute of Museum Services in Washington. ``Directors were usually chosen for their scholarship, and now they are running businesses and have to have major skills in fund-raising and all the management issues any company faces.''

But amid the current gloom, a quiet first-phase development campaign has raised $50 million from MFA officials, patrons, and trustees in the last six months and is headed toward a goal of $100 million. The institution has a $200 million endowment and receives no funding from the city and very little from the state.

Formulation of a museum master plan is under way. With the second-largest art collection in the US, the museum will have ``a greater emphasis on the interpretation and display'' of permanent collections, says Rogers. Work has started on a museum-wide computer database of the collections to be made available on the Internet.

Rogers also said that the Huntington Avenue entrance to the museum will be reopened on April 25th. For decades this entrance, leading into a great staircase cupola, was more than a symbolic welcome to the lower-income neighborhood nearby. Closed to save money, the blank door hardly invited the neighborhood into the museum as it once had.

Rogers says that once again it will become the ``entrance to a new and marvelous world.''

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