Editorial-July 24, 2008

Michener will be missed in New Hope

By Mae Rhine, Managing Editor
   We share the disappointment expressed by New Hope officials over the closing of the James A. Michener Art Museum satellite in Union Square.
   But from what we can see, museum officials did everything in their power to make it work. The attendance just wasn’t there.
   Many supported the gallery, including developer George Michael, who gave the museum free rent during its five years in the 5,000-square-foot facility; no small contribution in the commercial district.
   And donations to open the satellite in 2003 reached half a million dollars.
   But when all was said and done, the numbers just weren’t there. Attendance peaked in 2004 at 23,400 visitors. It’s projected to drop to about 15,000 next year.
   It’s just not economically feasible to keep it open, museum officials say.
   The museum did try. It used radio and print advertising and sandwich boards in town. It even advertised the satellite on napkins that were placed in bars and restaurants.
   In addition to other special promotions, museum officials even hired a limousine to drive people to the site from downtown New Hope and Lambertville.
   With a $10 million expansion nearly under way at the main location in Doylestown, it just doesn’t make sense to put any more time and energy into keeping the satellite open that faced a projected deficit of $117,000 next year.
   There’s also no reason this should have come as a major shock.
   The museum had an advisory council that included the mayor and members of the Borough Council. Executive Director Bruce Katsiff said there was ongoing talks about the decision.
   Mr. Michael says there is lots of interest in the site, based on the number of phone calls he’s had since the decision was made.
   We agree with Councilwoman Geri Delevich when she said, “There’s always new hope for New Hope.”
   Mr. Michael has shown a dedication and commitment to the borough, and we’re sure whoever he chooses to take the Michener’s place will be a good fit.