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Art in the Time of Frugality: Scarcity, Cooperation, and Change in American Art Museums

Sociological Forum

Published online on


["\nFunding for American art museums has undergone significant changes in the past 20 years. In particular, federal and corporate giving have substantially declined following the Great Recession. These changes impact museums’ ability to secure funding for exhibitions. This study addresses how funding scarcity affects American art museums, specifically with regard to staff’s ability to execute their own tasks and the strategies of action they use to compensate for these changes. Drawing from literature on resource scarcity, I explore how funding declines have prompted museum staff to use “strategic cooperation” as a means of diversifying limited financial resources. Moreover, using interviews with curators and development officers, I identify three cooperative strategies they may use: coordinating inter‐professional activities, pooling professional knowledge, and finding creative financial solutions. These findings add to work on resource scarcity by identifying inter‐group cooperation as a diversification strategy. More importantly, I add to this literature by specifically identifying multiple forms of strategic cooperation individuals may employ to combat resource scarcity. Finally, while literature on the arts has focused on museums’ propensity for inter‐professional conflict during times of duress, my work demonstrates that, despite this, cooperative action is a present and viable strategy in cultural organizations.\n", "Sociological Forum, EarlyView. "]