Options for Art Exhibit Programs by Religious Institutions

by an anonymous volunteer


Exhibits in large spaces

A religious organization may eventually wish to consider founding a major gallery or museum, dedicated to religious art, which will provide service to a city, county, state or larger geographic region. An example is the Museum of Church History and Art at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, UT, which offers temporary exhibitions featuring religious themes as well as accompanying online exhibits.


Initial inquiries

If a religious organization is considering creating a major exhibiting facility, it is wise to make inquiries to determine if other similar facilities are in planning stages. Duplication of effort may be an inefficient use of resources. Also, the local market may not be able to support duplicate facilities. It may be useful to collaborate with existing exhibiting organizations to widen the scope of an existing facility rather than start a new one from scratch.

Phone calls may be made, and emails sent, to principals of consulting organizations specializing in feasibility studies and business plans for art museums and arts centers. Inquiries may be also be made to executive directors of non-profit museums and galleries specializing in exhibiting religious art. The persons contacted may be asked if they are aware of other religious-themed museums or galleries "in the works."


Phased organizational design

Following is a phased organizational design for a permanent gallery or museum designated to occupy a large quantity of existing space within a campus of a religious organization. The plan assumes that a future exhibition program is unfunded at inception and that the parent organization has the capability to provide a number of support services. It contemplates no permanent collection or plans to establish a collection.  It is designed to provide for orderly and fiscally sound progression towards a self-sufficient visual arts venue incorporated as a stand-alone 501(c)(3) entity. It provides for incremental funding as operations become progressively established and contemplates securing funding for three years of initial operations to secure longevity of the venue. Provision for a new non-profit entity would both limit liability on the part of related entities and enable a full range of funding and programming options. Some steps may be unnecessary due to available resources and previously completed actions.


Organizational study committee

An organizing committee may be established by parent religious organization's leadership team to study pros and cons of a separate entity, including future optimal funding and hosting opportunities for visual arts exhibitions, possibly leading to an interim board formation. The committee may establish and secure the parent religious organization's approval of the museum or gallery mission and vision statements, long range goals; draft charters of interim board committees; conduct interim board recruitment; work with legal counsel to draft governance documents (articles, bylaws, etc) for a new non-profit entity.

Many arts centers, galleries and museums - some very large - are departments of larger non-profit organizations such as cities and universities. A departmental structure may operate adequately. A separate entity is not a necessity, only an option. If the visual arts are to be a minor feature of the campus, the argument for a separate entity is weakened.

Estimated duration of study committee: 6-12 months. Funding requirement: negligible


Interim board option

Interim board -- for a non-profit corporation established for governance of the visual arts facility - to exist until replacement by a permanent (ongoing operations) board.

Estimated duration of interim board: 12+ months. Funding requirement: substantial

Interim board committees may include:


Potential functions and duties of interim board committees:

Interim Executive committee

Recommend for interim board approval an interim executive director (ED) 
Recommend to full interim board, in co-ordination with interim finance committee, a slate of permanent board of directors
Develop RFP for permanent ED search
Find potential bidders for executive search, study their capabilities and negotiate ED contract for execution upon establishment of permanent board
Other functions and duties as deemed necessary by interim board


Interim Finance committee

Develop interim budget covering costs of: (i) executive search for permanent ED; (ii) compensation for interim executive director; (iii) parent religious organization-provided support services including event management, security, building services, utilities, insurance, accounting, legal, etc.; (iv) guest exhibition curator; (v) interim education manager; (vi) consultant for development of business plan; (vii) fund development consultant; (viii) marketing/pr consultant; (ix) other as required
Find consultant candidates for fund development services to assist in: (i) securing capitalization for first three years of operations; (ii) study candidate capabilities
Secure interim funding to cover budgeted costs
After business plan adopted and interim funding secured, recommend to full interim board a fund development consultant
Secure capitalization commitment for first 3-5 years of full operations with assistance of fund development consultant
Other functions and duties as deemed necessary by interim board


Interim Strategic planning committee

Search for, and evaluate, candidates for pro bono or paid consultant to develop business plan including: (i) pro forma 3-5 year budget; (ii) attendance projections; (iii) other customary components of a museum business plan
Provide input for business plan case studies of selected private institutions including non-profit museums, galleries and arts centers 
Secure from parent religious organization cost projections for ongoing services to be provided by it
Prepare RFP for business plan consultant candidates
After interim funding secured, recommend to full interim board final candidate for business plan creation
Collaborate in peer review of draft business plan via its circulation among selected leaders of private institutions
Recommend completed business plan for adoption by full interim board
Other functions and duties as deemed necessary by interim board


Interim Program committee

Find potential candidates for interim education management consultant including support programming for exhibits in galleries
After business plan adopted and interim funding secured, recommend to full interim board (i) adoption of contract for interim exhibits curator and (ii) interim education management contract
Secure parent religious organization prior approval of all programming
Other functions and duties as deemed necessary by interim board


The interim board committees would coordinate their activities, where appropriate, with the interim ED. The interim board would provide many functions usually under the direction and management of a permanent ED. Depending on the level of services to be provided by the interim ED, management of some interim board activities may be transferred to that individual. 

Staff and/or consultants under direction of interim board may include:

Interim executive director
Interim Marketing and PR consultant
Services by contract with parent religious organization for services of its support staff, consultants and vendors for: (i) event support; (ii) security; (iii) building floor space and maintenance; (iv) utilities, (v) insurance; (vi) legal; (vii) accounting; (viii) other support services
Interim guest curator for exhibitions
Interim education manager
Other staff, vendors and consultants as needed -- cafe and bookstore management are examples of other potential services which could be either provided by parent religious organization or under separate contract


Conclusion of interim board service and installation of permanent board

Upon interim board's securing of: (i) interim funding; (ii) adoption of business plan; (iii) commitment for funding of first 3-5 years of continuing operations; (iv) securing slate of permanent board members; (v) concluding all other duties, the interim board to resign upon installation of permanent board. Permanent board then to establish its committees, complete the ED search and hire permanent ED.

The interim board - if there is a separate non profit entity - could approve an arms-length draft lease (real estate commercial tenant lease) for signature by representatives of both the museum or gallery and the parent religious organization. The lease would detail the demised space. It would specify responsibility for tenant improvements, liability insurance in favor of the landlord, utilities, maintenance, rent, escalations, term of lease, etc.


Initiation of museum or gallery management by permanent executive director

Permanent ED, operating within budget approved by board: (i) hires staff; (ii) lets vendor and consultant contracts as needed for marketing/pr, exhibitions curation, education management, fund development & other requirements; (iii) parent religious organization ongoing services continue as before. Permanent ED to develop collections management policy for board approval and initiate accession activity -- if accession activity agreed to by board.

Upon hire of the executive director by the permanent board, permanent staffing, contracting with vendors, setting up exhibits, etc. -  leading to complete functionality - may begin. 


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