A few weeks ago, I interviewed Kimerly Rorschach, SAM's new director, at length. You can listen to the full interview here.
Then, last week, Michael Upchurch of the Seattle Times ran an interview with Rorschach, in which she is quoted as saying,
Are there things we can learn from Starbucks? Are there things we can learn from Costco? Are there things we can learn from Microsoft about our markets and how we target our potential customers?
Maybe Rorschach was just making an offhand comment (and maybe she doesn't know about gross stories like this one, which help to explain why many people despise brands like Costco), and we're certainly not hearing the context of the rest of the conversation.
But it's worth noting as well the casual use of the word "customers," which implies the default setting that the museum is a business. Which it is. And also, it isn't.
These aren't new issues. They emphasize what's essentially the split personality of many large arts nonprofits: In the galleries and education rooms, we are creativity itself, but in the behind-the-scenes boardrooms and offices, we are a corporate monolith. A freak in the street but a lady in bed.
Is that even possible?
And does hopping back on the bandwagon of profit-maximizing corporate America—given, among other less quantifiable things, "Subprime Mess Topples Seattle Art Museum's Faustian Tower Deal"—seem like forward-thinking stewardship?
UPDATE: Right after I posted this, somebody said to me that Rorschach sounds like she's just trolling for dollars (from those companies) without any intention of changing SAM (to make it more like those companies). That's entirely possible. The proof is always in what the museum does, not in the public statements. We don't know yet what Rorschach's SAM looks like.