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ART LOSS, DAMAGE, AND REPERCUSSIONS
Proceedings of an IFAR Symposium on February 28, 2002
The Downtown Institutional Impact, page 3
by John Haworth
My downtown museum colleagues and I continue dealing with enormous "downtown" issues, concerning both employees and public. With a lot of help from our community and staff, however, the museum was able to reopen the doors on October 1st.
When the museum opened in 1994, the projections were an annual audience of about 250,000. In reality, we attracted roughly 300,000 the first year, 400,000 the second year, and at least a half million in subsequent years. The National Museum of the American Indian has become one of the most popular family destinations in the New York metropolitan area, clearly establishing itself as one of the cultural anchors downtown. Our attendance—due to cutbacks in school visits and the public's apprehension about coming downtown in the aftermath of 9/11—was off by more than 50% in both October and November; however, December was more encouraging, though still lower than the previous year by about 25%—with about 25,000 visitors! Yes, indeed, visitors are coming to "The Platform" [World Trade Center viewing platform] to pay their respects; the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island have reopened, and the downtown community—with tremendous and focused support from the Alliance for Downtown NY and NYC & Company—is on the comeback trail, though we still have a long way to go.
How about our programs? What about our facility? We are developing a raw ground—floor space—the Pavilion, which is directly underneath the Rotunda—as a family destination complete with active public programs, residencies, and exhibitions. The City of New York came through with $1 million in capital funds this current fiscal year (FY 2002), and we are moving forward with plans to open this facility in early 2004. Given the severe losses in public spaces from 9/11—although I do speak with my own institutional bias!—this space is especially for downtown right now.
CURRENT PROGRAMS AND RESPONSES
In sum, life in lower Manhattan has new and different challenges, and certainly, public safety and security are key issues. I envision a future that puts cultural institutions in the limelight as entities to attract a global audience to our neighborhood. Lower Manhattan is very much on the rebound; however, the positive cooperation of people at every level—from the community board to the board room to the street to our cultural institutions—is critical to assuring success.
In closing, I will again read from Coyote in Love with a Star :
Every night when the stars came out, Coyote waited until the beautiful star came near the observation deck, and then he howled and howled, begging her to take him up into the sky. He wanted to dance with her. At first she just ignored him. But one night, after he pleaded and begged, the star danced over and pulled him into the sky, and they began to dance together. As they danced across the sky, he was so happy he thought his heart would burst.
I look forward to days when all of us will again be so very happy that our hearts will burst. Thank you for inviting me to be on this panel.
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