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Art museum stays in same facility

The Laguna Art Museum will stay where it is.

That’s the consensus of the museum’s board of trustees, a decision made during a retreat in February, museum director Bolton Colburn announced Tuesday at the museum’s annual membership meeting.

“We decided that where we sit is the best possible place for us,” Colburn said.

The decision came after an ambitious proposal to build a new museum and city parking structure funded by town homes at the site of the Village Entrance on Laguna Canyon Road was withdrawn after overwhelming community opposition.

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Board President Louis Rohl said the abandoned museum proposal would have “saved taxpayers $12 million,” but that it garnered no community support.

The museum will embark next year on a fund-raising campaign to expand and improve the existing facility at 307 Cliff Drive, Colburn said.

To meet future needs and keep pace with other art museums, the museum needs to “at least triple” its exhibition space and provide space for community and educational events, including an auditorium, according to its future planning report.

Financially, the museum is doing well, posting positive numbers for the second year in a row, said business manager Peter Salomon.

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Salomon reported the museum’s assets increased over the last fiscal year by $240,000, while its contributions increased, and revenues from special events and other sources were up. In addition, Salomon said the museum has had to rely less on selling artwork to pay bills.

The museum has kept expenses under control, logging a 2% increase, he added.

“We are in a good cash position,” Salomon said.

Museum officials are also boosted by the coverage — including a cover — in The New Yorker magazine this month featuring an upcoming exhibition at the museum by Wayne Thiebaud.

The museum is challenged, however, by a lack of support locally, museum officials said.

Its membership numbers are slipping, and museum officials are trying to boost membership from outside Laguna Beach, Colburn said.

In June 2006, the museum had 955 paid memberships; it fell to 915 a year later. Free memberships — given to artists and others — also fell during that time.

The museum has changed its collections policy to focus on California artists instead of taking an “encyclopedic” approach to art, said Janet Blake, curator of collections.

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“We will collect the best examples from the best artists in California from the 19th century to the present day,” Blake said.

Blake also announced that, in keeping with the new policy, the museum will be selling off “deaccessioned” works that do not fit into the new collection. Deaccessioning involves determining that a work is unsuitable for exhibition. .

The funds raised from the sale of deaccessioned works will be used to preserve works in the collection and to purchase other works that fit the new policy, Blake said.

One recently acquired new work is a lithograph print of a photograph made recently at the old El Toro Marine Corps Base by the largest pinhole camera in the world, Blake said. The camera was created out of an old air hangar in conjunction with the creation of the Orange County Great Park project. The Guinness Book of World Records certified it as the largest pinhole camera in the world. Also at the meeting, members voted to ratify four trustee officials, all of whom were re-elected: President Rohl, Vice President Elyse Carraco Miller, Treasurer Robert Hayden and secretary Johanna Felder.


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