3 Lessons Learned From Museums

What Hispanic businesses can learn from the success of three Hispanic museums that succeeded despite the tough economy



From cutting-edge cultural programs to art exhibits, Hispanic-American museums showcase the voices, visions and artistic talents of Hispanics living in the U.S. However, thanks to the recent recession, these same museums have been hit hard by funding cuts. Shrinking endowments, a lack of public financing and decreased donations are forcing these museums to think creatively about funding–finding new ways to sustain themselves financially.

From original marketing campaigns to new capital fundraising drives, recent Hispanic news reports prove that these important cultural institutions can still thrive–even with a stagnant economy.

Here are three museums that are beating the odds–and teaching important lessons to Hispanic leaders the greater Hispanic business market in the process.





El Museo del Barrio


Arguably one of America’s leading Latino cultural museums with a special focus on Caribbean immigrant communities, El Museo provides interpretative art and educational exhibits geared toward Hispanic youth in New York City. In 2011, a 10 percent cut in its operating subsidy from New York City forced the museum to make some tough financial decisions. El Museo had to get creative with its budget–slashing $1.1 million by reducing its summer program, shortening exhibit runs and laying off four staff members.

The museum also reached out to major corporate donors–cultivating event support from American Express, Target and Chase. American Express provided key funding for El Museo’s recent special exhibit, Voces y Visiones: Signs, Systems and the City. Chase is the co-sponsor of educational programming, while Target sponsors “Super Sabado,” providing free museum entrance every third Saturday. El Museo has also aggressively recruited new members for its Patrons Circle; a minimum $2,500 donation is required for membership.

Lesson learned: Don’t wait for funding to appear–aggressively seek new revenue sources.

Even before budget cuts were announced, El Museo was already courting corporate sponsorships and private donors. This support allowed the museum to protect its core educational programs, despite public funding cuts.