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Art Isn’t Easy

By Kari Geltemeyer in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 1, 2005 9:16PM

Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum

Adding fuel to the theory that The Arts Are Dying in the U.S. (literature, classical music, theater, cinema, etc.) is today’s news from Crain’s Chicago Business that attendance at Chicago’s top 10 museums in 2004 declined for the fourth year in a row.

The Sun-Times, on the other hand, is pushing a different interpretation of the same report from the Museums in the Park, calling attendance “stable” and noting that “projections for tourism in Chicago show a climb coming at the end of 2005 and again in 2006.”

Sounds to us like a clear case of choosing between half empty and half full. Either way, a 1% fall-off (7.48 million in ’04 vs. 7.57 million in ’03) may not seem like much until you consider that an average of 23 million people manage to show up for “Desperate Housewives” every Sunday night. (A figure that, comparisons aside, baffles us beyond.)

Not surprisingly, it’s the big-name exhibits that bring the crowds: rock stars like Seurat, Rembrandt and Manet helped boost Art Institute attendance by 13% over 2003. Likewise for the kid-friendly factor: with “Animal Grossology: The Science of Creatures Gross and Disgusting,” the Notebaert Nature Museum raised its numbers by 14%.

On the flip side was the year’s biggest loser, the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, which suffered from the departure of its 2003 Frida Kahlo exhibit to the tune of a 36% drop.

Moral of the story? Go. See. Do.

Photo from the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum