Like other arts groups, the museum has had to live frugally since the recession hit in 2008. The annual budget has shrunk from $2.2 million to $1.96 million. When the associate curator left, the full-time curator had to carry the job herself for more than a year until Layne could afford a new associate.
"The recession was a blow," Layne said. "Museums are creative places. If you think creatively and work hard, you can come up with ways to do well whatever the economy or life throws at you. And that's what we've done."
The museum has an endowment between $8 million and $9 million and another $6 million in dedicated trusts. Most of the income helps fund operations, but some is dedicated exclusively to the purchase of art.
The museum used to rent exhibits, but now usually swaps shows directly with other museums, sometimes in Ohio and Kentucky, but also in Alabama and Georgia. "There are no loan fees. We load our van, wrap and pack them ourselves," Layne said.
The Huntington museum attracts 17,000 visitors a year, plus nearly 8,000 students who come through on school tours. The museum reaches another 18,000 youngsters in after-school programs and off-site activities, Layne said. "The challenge is to evolve your institution to continue to be relevant to people. As technology has changed, the way people want to interact with art continues to change."
Fitzgerald died in 1962 at 90, a lifelong bachelor who lived privately and stayed out of surviving photos from the museum's opening day.
"He could have asked that the museum be the 'Fitzpatrick Museum of Art,'" said longtime museum spokesman John Gillispie. "But the community has supported us for 60 years, and it's rightfully called the Huntington Museum of Art."
WHERE: Huntington Museum of Art, 2033 McCoy Road, Huntington
WHEN: Through Feb. 3 and again from Feb. 23 through Oct. 20, 2013
HOURS: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
ADMISSION: $5 per person, $18 for a family of four or more. Free on Tuesdays.
WHAT ELSE? Barrie Kaufman's gallery walk at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 9 is free, as is the reception that follows. Call 304-529-2701.
Bob Schwarz reported on the arts for many years for The Charleston Gazette and the Gazette-Mail. Now retired, he lives in Phoenix and may be emailed at robertbschw...@gmail.com.