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Accounting for Curators: Building the Exhibition Budget
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Program Description: 

On Thursday, September 12 at 2:00 PM, the Professional Development Committee of the AAMC hosted the webinar "Accounting for Curators: Building the Exhibition Budget." This 75-minute conversation provided an overview of the process of developing budgets for loan exhibitions, led by curators with extensive budgeting experience. The webinar was intended to be a pragmatic approach to a sometimes mysterious process, and its goal was to build the knowledge base of curators who seldom work directly with budgets and expand the skill set of curators seeking new ideas about how to approach the budgeting process. Moderated by Heather MacDonald (Dallas Museum of Art), the webinar featured presentations by Kathleen Morris (Clark Art Institute) and N. Elizabeth Schlatter (University of Richmond Museums), followed by a question and answer session with webinar participants. Some of the topics of conversation included a survey of budget categories, formulas and shortcuts for assembling a first draft budget, and a review of the best resources for gathering budgeting information.
About the Participants:

Following the webinar, an AAMC member queried, "I would really like to get more information about "rolling" budgets and how to introduce them within the main budget, which is according to the fiscal year." Below is a response from Kathy Morris:

If you are interested in establishing a separate fund through which exhibitions operate, outside the general operating budget and thus outside the fiscal year cycle, I would ask your CFO whether this is possible in your institution, and if so what it would take to establish it. It would probably need Board action. If your institution already budgets a certain amount each year for exhibitions, this same amount could be deposited in some type of "reserve” account. Expenses and revenues for exhibitions, as defined by your institution, would flow through this cost center, making it easy to track total institutional spending on exhibitions, and allowing flexibility to fund exhibitions over several years without having to be as accurate with quarterly cashflow (these things, as you know, can be hard to predict, particularly in the months before and after the change of the fiscal year. Within our exhibition reserve, we give each project a separate budget code, so we can easily track spending per project.

Presenters Biographies

Kathleen M. Morris has been Director of Collections and Exhibitions and Curator of Decorative Arts at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute since February 2005. Before that, she worked at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia for twenty-one years, ending as Associate Director for Exhibitions and Collections Management, and Curator of European Sculpture, Decorative Arts, and Prints to 1900. She holds a B.A. in Art History from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and Masters and Ph.D. degrees in Art History from the University of Virginia. She is a 1996 graduate of the Getty's Museum Leadership Institute and attended the Attingham program's "Royal Collections Studies Course" in 1998.

At the Clark, Kathy serves on the Management Team and oversees the functions of curatorial administration, exhibitions management, registration and art preparation, and public education, in addition to her work as curator of decorative arts. She has extensive administration experience, including budget development and management; contract development and management; grant management; and managing complex traveling exhibitions from inception through final reporting. Recent exhibitions organized by the Clark and overseen by Kathy include Unearthed: Recent Archaeological Treasures from Northern China, Phantoms of the Clark Expedition: An Installation by Mark Dion at the Explorers Club, Pissarro’s People (co-organized with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco), and Picasso Looks at Degas (co-organized with the Museu Picasso, Barcelona). Kathy has been part of a Clark team managing an eleven venue tour ofseventy-three 19th-century paintings from its collection, Great French Paintings from the Clark, which has traveled to museums in Spain, Italy, France, England, Canada, the US, Japan, and China. As curator of decorative arts, Kathy oversees a collection of several thousand objects at the Clark, including European silver, porcelain and furniture, and American silver, glass, furniture, and ceramics. She is currently working on reinstallation plans for these collections as part of the Clark's comprehensive campus expansion/renovation project, with an opening date of July 2014.Kathy was co-curator of the Clark’s 2010 exhibition Eye to Eye: European Portraits 1450-1850, and she is working on a future exhibition on the topic of the music room designed by Lawrence Alma-Tadema for American magnate Henry Marquand.


N. Elizabeth Schlatter is Deputy Director and Curator of Exhibitions at the University of Richmond Museums, Virginia, where she has curated more than 20 exhibitions, including recent exhibitions of art by Carl Chiarenza, Andreas Feininger, Hans Friedrich Grohs, Sue Johnson, and Fiona Ross, and the exhibitions "Flow, Just Flow: Variations on a Theme,” "Art=Text=Art: Works by Contemporary Artists,” "LEADED: the Materiality and Metamorphosis of Graphite” and "Form & Story: Narration in Recent Painting.” Prior to working at the University of Richmond she was an exhibitions project director for the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in Washington, D.C.

As an independent curator and writer, she has organized exhibitions for contemporary art spaces in the mid-Atlantic region, and has authored several articles and reviews for Focus and Photovision magazines, the National Women in the Arts Bulletin, and the American National Biography (Oxford University Press), among others. She is also author of Museum Careers: A Practical Guide for Novices and Students (Left Coast Press, Inc.) and the on-line publication Become An Art Curator (, and recently contributed a chapter to the publication A Life in Museums: Managing Your Museum Career (American Association of Museums). She has a B.A. in art history from Southwestern University in Texas, and an M.A. in art history from George Washington University.


Heather MacDonald is the Lillian and James H. Clark Associate Curator of European Art at the Dallas Museum of Art. A specialist in French painting of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries, MacDonald joined the DMA in 2005 and has collaborated on the organization of numerous exhibitions of old master, impressionist, and modernist art. Prior to her arrival at the DMA, MacDonald worked at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Garden in San Marino, Calif. She earned her doctorate and Master of Arts in the History of Art from the University of California, Berkeley, where she wrote a dissertation on landscape and political culture in the paintings of the 18th-century French artist Claude-Joseph Vernet.

In recent years, MacDonald has curated the exhibitions and authored the accompanying catalogues for Flower of the Prairie: George Grosz in Dallas (2012) and Stormy Skies, Calm Waters: Vernet’s Lansdowne Landscapes (2011). She co-curated the The Mourners: Medieval Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy, which won the Association of Art Museum Curator’s award for Outstanding Small Exhibition of 2010. MacDonald also served on the curatorial team of the first exhibition jointly presented at the DMA and the Nasher Sculpture Center, Matisse: Painter as Sculptor, organized by the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center, and the Baltimore Museum of Art (2007-08).MacDonald is currently co-organizing Working among Flowers: French Still Life in the 19th Century (2014-15) and Gauguin in the Studio: Brittany-Tahiti-Paris (2016-17).


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