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Benefactor gives BMA $5 million

The Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore Museum of Art announced yesterday that an anonymous donor has given the institution $5 million to endow the position of its top executive. Museum officials say that the endowment will ensure the museum's ability to attract talented leaders in the future and free up funds for new programs and staff.

Museum director Doreen Bolger's current salary of $228,000 had been funded by the museum's annual operating revenues. Museum officials suggested that Bolger's salary could increase next year, but it would not change automatically because of the gift.

BMA board chairman Stiles Tuttle Colwill said the gift was given to honor the 10th anniversary of Bolger's appointment as director, which was announced Oct. 23, 1997.

"The donor specified the money be used this way," said Colwill. "The donor is a longtime friend of the museum who saw a tremendous need and stepped forward to fill it."

He also pointed out that the museum will receive the gift in installments rather than as a lump sum, and that it will cover all aspects of the director's office, including travel, research expenses and staffing as well as compensation.

"A gift like this grows with time, because the principal grows with time," Colwill predicted. "The donor is far-sighted enough to know that and to allow for it."

BMA communications director Anne Mannix said the donation is the second-largest individual cash gift in the BMA's history. The largest gift from an individual was donated by Baltimore philanthropist Dorothy McIlvain Scott, who gave the museum $10 million in January to endow a wing, devoted to American furniture and decorative arts.

Bolger said the anonymous gift would free up funds that could be used to expand programs and staff.

"From the time I came here until the end of [fiscal year] 2007 the budget has been basically flat," Bolger said. "That made it very challenging. We have maintained a very vibrant institution on a very lean budget. So there's no end of possibilities for what we will apply this money to. That's what makes this a particularly joyful gift."

Bolger said that a recent survey by the American Association of Museum Directors put BMA in the bottom quartile in terms of directors' salaries for museums of comparable size. Nationally, the top salary was $450,000 for museums the BMA's size and $628,000 for the largest museums.

Colwill also pointed out that salaries represented only a part of the total compensation that museum directors receive.

"There was never any question Doreen wouldn't stay, but when you read the statistics of what others are earning it was incumbent on our board to pay her adequately," Colwill said. "We will try to compensate her better, and that was certainly the desire of the donor."

Bolger's salary this year represented 1.7 percent of the museum's $13.1 million budget, which increased slightly over previous years as a result of additional funding from local governments.

In a statement, Colwill praised Bolger's financial stewardship and fundraising success at the museum as well as her oversight of innovative exhibitions and programming.

Her tenure saw the launch of free museum admission last fall, the reinstallation of the Cone and European art collections, important traveling exhibitions such as Matisse: Painter as Sculptor, Pissarro: Creating the Impressonist Landscape and SlideShow, as well as important acquisitions of art, including many works by African-American artists.

Before coming to the BMA, Bolger was director of the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. She began her career at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where she worked for 15 years, and later at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

A specialist in American painting and decorative arts, she holds a master's degree from the University of Delaware and a doctorate in art history from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

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