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Nearly $3 million in state funds preserve MAC

The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture will not have to close.

The museum received just under $3 million for the coming biennium as part of the state budget that was working its way through the Washington state Legislature on Wednesday.

That’s about a 5 percent cut from the museum’s current funding level. But, as museum program manager Laura Thayer said, “It’s not death.”

Earlier state spending proposals would have slashed the MAC’s funding so severely that the museum would have been forced to shut its doors and lay off almost the entire staff.

This 5 percent cut will still require the museum to reduce operations and services. Thayer said it’s too early to say where those reductions will be made. The MAC has already cut its staffing by 40 percent over the last two years.

Yet this new budget means that the MAC will at least survive. The Washington State History Museum in Tacoma, which was also threatened in earlier budget proposals, will also survive.

Ron Rector, the MAC’s executive director, said the money does not come from the state’s general fund, but from the Heritage Center fund, which had been earmarked for building a new Heritage Center museum in Olympia. Rector said this is not a money source that can be tapped again. Rector said the MAC must wean itself from state funding in the future.

“I think they (the legislators) said, ‘Here you are, guys, you have two years to figure it out,’ ” Rector said.

Rector said this cut is actually a 12 percent reduction when figured on a biennium-to-biennium basis, since the MAC already absorbed a midstream cut. Still, Rector called the outcome a “huge plus for our community.”

This news out of Olympia came just as the MAC was installing its biggest exhibit ever, “Leonardo da Vinci: Man-Inventor-Genius,” which will run June 3 through Sept. 5, and is expected to draw tens of thousands of visitors. The MAC is also gearing up for its annual outdoor art festival, ArtFest, June 3 through 5 in Coeur d’Alene Park in Browne’s Addition.



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