Saint Louis Art Museum Scaling Back Amid Economic Downturn

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A bill proposed by state Sen. Joan Bray requiring that people living outside St. Louis City and County pay admissions fees to visit certain regional attractions is coming none too soon for the Saint Louis Art Museum.

The Associated Press reports this week that the art museum is being forced to cut costs by $1.5 million thanks to the lousy economy. Museum Director Brent Benjamin tells the AP that the institution's endowment has declined 30 percent in six months. The museum has offered early retirement to 19 of its 179 full-time employees. It's also cut back significantly on printing material and eliminated all but essential travel.

The art museum is one of five organizations within the Zoo-Museum District that receive taxpayer support from St. Louis City and County. As such, none of the institutions except for the Botanical Garden can charge admissions. Bray's bill would change that, allowing the art museum -- and the others -- to charge non-residents an entrance fee.

Despite the economic hardships, the art museum says that it still plans to move forward on construction later this year of a major expansion.

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