Museums as events venues: non-arts revenue generation to support the museum
Inga Saffron, the great urban design columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, in an earlier piece "The Barnes: A ravishing building, but cut off from the city" then followed up by "Surface parking lots hurt more than they help" about the new Barnes Foundation Museum on Franklin Parkway complained about the large parking lot that is out of place in a key urban setting.
She "reconsiders" in "If we must commingle art and commerce, 2 museums show us the way" realizing that the Museum has been designed to maximize revenue from evening events held in the facility after hours. From the article:
Passing the Barnes Foundation's sprawling new parking lot one recent afternoon, I was surprised to see half the spaces were empty. By evening, however, the joint was jumping, the lot was full, and many female visitors were wearing skyscraper heels, rather than the sensible flats of the serious museumgoer. That's when it hit me that the real motive for cramming the lot onto the Barnes' tiny site was to help the gallery promote itself as a party venue.
In DC, similar types of events are a big source of revenue for the National Building Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and other organizations.
In any case, urban zoning should require that parking for such uses be underground.
Related to arts planning, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Karen Heller writes about the recent University of Chicago report on arts related capital improvement and expansion projects that I mentioned a week or two ago. See "Pragmatic visions and mutual relationships necessary for Philadelphia cultural institutions to stay afloat."