Perez Art Museum Miami Could Receive Additional $2.5 Million From County

When the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) opened last December, it was heralded as a triumph for Miami's arts community. But how much is the institution worth to taxpayers? That's the question at the center of debate over a proposed increase in government funding to PAMM, which would boost the museum's income by as much as $2.5 million.

Tomorrow, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez will unveil a budget that increases county funding for the museum to $4 million, from $2.5 million last year, the Miami Herald reports. Representatives of the museum told the Herald that the money is necessary to cover the gap in operational costs, which tripled in the transition between the former Miami Art Museum and its super-sized new incarnation.

But some county commissioners say the money would be better spent elsewhere, pointing to job cuts across the county, including in libraries and police service.

Government funding allows PAMM to offer programs like free admission for students, and regular free admission days, which do benefit taxpayers. And the need for increased funding, according to the Herald, isn't due to mismanagement on the part of PAMM; the museum's fundraising efforts are on target -- in some cases, even ahead of expected revenues.

But there's still a gap of millions of dollars, which could be partially due to backtracking by the county. Michael Spring, Gimenez' cultural chief, told the Herald that Miami-Dade initially planned to give PAMM $4 million last year, but budget issues forced a reduction to $2.5 million. And after the county's initial hefty investment, he said, Dade county has a vested interest in supporting the museum.

"We don't make a $100 million investment in a beautiful new building and say we don't care about your operating budget," he told the Herald.

But others worry that keeping pace with PAMM will come at a cost to others in the community. As many as 700 jobs could be cut under the next Miami-Dade budget.

"We have a lot of flexibility with these dollars,'' commissioner Juan C. Zapata told the paper, complaining, "We've gotten on this path where we're all-in supporting these cultural institutions that are all downtown and are already benefiting from public dollars for construction."

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Ciara LaVelle is New Times' former arts and culture editor. She earned her BS in journalism at Boston University and moved to Florida in 2004. She joined New Times' staff in 2011.
Contact: Ciara LaVelle