No $78K Gov’t Boost for Loudoun Museum Revamp

Loudoun supervisors have declined a request to give the Loudoun Museum $78,000 boost this year, on top of the financial support the county already supplies the nonprofit.

The county government currently provides the museum $156,000 a year subject to certain performance metrics and milestones. The agreement came about in 2016 amid increasing frustration among supervisors about county bailouts to keep the then-flagging museum afloat. Since then, the Loudoun Museum has revamped with new staff, a new board of trustees, new bookkeeping and strategic planning, and new exhibits and efforts to raise money and get the word out into the community.

That county funding was approved each year, as the museum continues to meet the requirements of the agreement, which have also included goals like increasing fundraising by a third.

Now, supervisors are beginning a new 10-year agreement with the museum with similar requirements, starting at $156,000 a year and increasing by three percent each year thereafter.

According to a letter to County Administrator Tim Hemstreet from Board of Trustees President and Chairwoman Sharon Virts, that amounts to about 30 percent of what is needed overall for museum operations.

But the county board did not approve a one-time $78,000 boost to support revamping the museum’s exhibit space.

Leesburg District Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D) said the county board has “entered a whole new time period in which our priorities need to shift very carefully.”

“As much as I enjoy the Loudoun Museum, when the new [Loudoun Museum Board of Directors] … started, there was a lot of optimism that they would turn around the museum’s finances and be successful at fundraising,” Umstattd said. “… This amount is something that they probably should have been able to raise themselves.”

The Loudoun Museum is simultaneously launching a capital campaign and asking the Town of Leesburg for an extended lease, from five years to 10—which it currently gets for a token price of a dollar a year.

The $78,000, Virts said, was to support the museum’s outreach and education efforts while its director, Joe Rizzo, oversees the work of that capital campaign and of renovating the museum’s space. After that work ends, she said, the full-time outreach position would be maintained and supported by museum’s other fundraising efforts.

“I can’t go out and ask you to give me money for building a new exhibit hall and then say, oh, and by the way, can you stroke me a check for the operations,” Virts said.

She pointed out it was a relatively small capital campaign, with a target of $269,000 by the end of Fiscal Year 2021.

And while the museum did not get the $78,000 trustees hoped for, Virts said the museum will get by. And the larger impact right now, she said, is the COVID-19 pandemic that has closed the museum and shut down fundraising events for nonprofits. The museum is among the gathering spaces ordered closed until April 23 by Governor Ralph Northam.

“I’m not losing sleep over it, and especially now with what’s going on,” Virts said. “We’ll get by, we’ll do OK, it just may mean that the project itself is going to slow down.”

Virts said, “it took us a long time to reach this turning point.”

“It was going well, and I think it will continue to go well once we get through this, get back open, but we’ll weather it,” Virts said.

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