Arts & Culture

RISD museum to close for August; layoffs to come

By
Arts & Culture Editor

Having seen its endowment shrink by nearly a third, the Rhode Island School of Design is shuttering its renowned museum for the entire month of August.

In a May 13 e-mail and statement to faculty and students, RISD President John Maeda announced that the school would also reduce the size of the museum’s staff by up to 20 people through layoffs, early retirement incentives and other measures.

The museum closing came in response to what its director, Hope Alswang, called “a truly harrowing drop in the museum’s endowment portfolio,” with earned interest dropping from $6 million to around $5 million in the span of one fiscal year.

“We knew we couldn’t just nibble around the edges,” Alswang told the Providence Journal in a July 12 article. “We knew we had to find a solution that matched the problem.”

RISD Museum attendance in August has typically been the institution’s lowest of the year, and the summer closing means the school’s academic programs will be mostly unaffected.

Nevertheless, in the past two months, eight museum employees have been laid off, and six chose early retirement.

When the museum does reopen in September, it will be to an exciting season that includes an installation by Arnie Zimmerman in the new Chace Center, as well as an exhibit of early modern engraving and an ongoing show of Japanese landscape prints.