Museum & Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley criticized amid several recent troubles
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Squeakerpeeps, the Swedish blue duck mascot of the Museum & Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley, gives a hug to Helen Bucher. The center has run into a spate of problems recently, including only having eight members on its board, one shy of its nine-member minimum. — Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

Sequim nonprofit facing heavy losses
By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– The Museum & Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley has faced heavy annual losses over the past five years.

According to the museum's filings with the Internal Revenue Service, the center, known as the MAC, has lost $179,609 between 2008 and 2012.

In an effort to counter that, the MAC instituted a $3 entry fee for its exhibit center at 175 W. Cedar St.for those 13 and older, and increased the commission it charges artists who display in the museum from 25 percent to 30 percent.

The museum also shut down its Second Chance Consignment Shop at 155 W. Cedar St. on Feb. 25 in an effort to erase annual losses.

In 2012, the museum took in $165,624 in revenue and spent $247,117, a loss of $81,493.

The Secretary of State's Office reported that 65 percent of the museum's spending that year was devoted to programs, on track with the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance's recommended percentage and above the 60 percent recommended by the American Institute of Philanthropy.

MAC Executive Director DJ Bassett said the MAC, like many other nonprofit organizations, has seen its donations drop off significantly since the financial collapse of 2008.

“This organization has never been underfunded or understaffed,” Bassett said. “But when you try to do the things that this museum has always tried to do and your donations drop off, things get worse fairly quickly.”

Chief among the lost funding has been a reduced pool of grants that once funded the MAC.

“I used to be able to write grants and start up programs like nothing,” said Priscilla Hudson, MAC vice president.

“Now that's all changed. Almost every grant we can apply for requires a match. And then you have to comply with all the complex reporting and tracking requirements that weren't there when I came on eight years ago.”

When Carole Platt decided to retire after eight years of managing the Second Chance store, museum officials elected to close the popular store.

“It was a real labor of love for Carole. What she did to keep that place running for that many years — she really went above and beyond,” Bassett said.

“So when you think about trying to replace a person like that and combine that with the fact that we were losing $5,000 a year — that's a no-brainer.”

After 38 years, the museum gave up its annual Elegant Flea Antique and Collectibles Sale, turning it over to the Sequim Prairie Grange, which staged the event this past weekend.

Hudson said the museum's profit from the event was dwindling, and she no longer felt she could devote the time it took to organize the market.

“That, and it really doesn't fall in the mission of the museum to do antique sales,” she said.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.
SEQUIM –– With the resignation of two trustees, closure of its Second Chance Consignment Shop, discontinuance of its annual Elegant Flea sale and mounting annual operating losses, the Museum & Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley has come under fire from longtime supporters.

“There's no board anymore; everybody's resigned,” said Dorothy Haller Munkeby, a longtime member of the center, known as the MAC, whose father, Albert Haller, donated the land on which the DeWitt Administration Center sits at 544 N. Sequim Ave.

The board now has eight members, one shy of its nine-member-minimum roster.

Operating losses for the MAC are mounting, with a $65,458 loss predicted for the museum in 2014, its 38th year.

“The museum's in a situation that — I won't say shouldn't have happened — but that somebody should have caught long before it got to this,” said Bob Clark, one of the MAC's founders.

That has led to criticism from members who are calling for changes to turn the museum's finances around.

“The folks in this area are a rather independent set of folks,” said MAC Executive Director DJ Bassett, who took the post in 2010.

“So a lot of the attitude is, 'By God, we can live without that,'” Bassett said.

“But running a museum that has gone from a mom-and-pop sort of historical society to an institution that has taken in all the natural history, art and Jamestown S'Klallam exhibits is a lot more complicated than it was back in 1976,” Bassett said

Trustee Jim Steeby resigned from the board Monday, and Gideon Cauffman, who had been the MAC president, resigned last month.

Cauffman said he left because of nonstop contact he received from critics of the museum's management.

“It was getting to the point where I was getting a whole barrage of emails and phone calls and people stopping by,” Cauffman said.

“As far as being the guy that's constantly in the crosshairs, I just couldn't be that guy,” he added.

Steeby said he left because he “wasn't happy with the way things were going.”

He said communication between the board and Bassett was not what he expected.

“It felt sometimes like it was a bit a tail-wagging-the-dog situation,” he said.

Trustee John Beitzel stepped down from the treasurer position on the board but may take on the secretary post in the board's new arrangement.

The MAC's board has had 22 people step down over the past three years.

“When that many people keep resigning, there's something wrong,” Haller Munkeby said.

Priscilla Hudson, MAC vice president and a longtime volunteer, said the board will consider the addition of four new trustees — John Jarvis, Trish Bekkevar, Art Rodgers and Ross Hamilton — when it meets next Thursday.

Late last year, the MAC paid $29,000 to bring in consultants Richard Beckerman and Michael Friedline to review its finances in an effort to stem the tide.

“I think DJ has great experience in conservation, but I think the consultants really helped with a lot of the business aspects of things,” Cauffman said.

Years of rotating bookkeepers working part time to track the museum's financial records left “a mess,” Hudson said.

“People see this expenditure of money for the consultants, and they start to think, 'Oh, they're going out and having parties,'” Bassett said. “We're trying a number of things to add more revenue.”

The decision to pay outside consultants given the museum's financial struggles has prompted criticism.

“They don't need a [$29,000] consultant to say we're losing money and what should we do,” Haller Munkeby said.

Others said the museum should have turned to its local supporters to solve the problem.

“The community of citizens who established our history collections are wondering why the out-of-town consultants are still here working,” said Bob Stipe, a museum member and descendant of a pioneer family.

“Now is the time to use our local volunteers who want to help ensure the future of what our pioneer ancestors created.”

But Bassett said the museum's complex structure — the DeWitt Center, the exhibit center, the thrift shop, the Dungeness Schoolhouse and sales of art and history materials — is out of the realm of expertise of many

“This is a very complex organization,” he said. “It's not really realistic anymore to think somebody could come in and do that kind of work on a volunteer basis.”

Stipe and Haller Munkeby both called for volunteers to perform functions of paid staff.

“They should let a membership group go back and see what they were doing five years ago and how things went so terribly wrong,” Haller Munkeby said.

Presently, the museum has two full-time paid employees: Bassett and Renee Mizar, communications coordinator and executive assistant.

But the museum today does not have the same community of volunteers that built the MAC, Bassett said.

“We're having trouble with volunteers right now,” Bassett said. “Because people in my generation, we don't volunteer like our folks' generation — the greatest generation, as Tom Brokaw called it — did.”

Others noted that the intricacies of curating a museum are beyond the scope of volunteer labor.

“If you have someone take this on as a volunteer position, you're still going to need a consultant,” said Cauffman, a cultural resources specialist for the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe.

“Museums are a unique beast.”

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 15. 2014 7:51PM
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