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Carwash King Uses Coupons to Sell Art

September 30, 1986|JEFF ROWE

Like any good carwash magnate and art museum chairman, Jack Shea appreciates clean lines and brilliant paint work--whether on canvas or on a car.

But while steady streams of drivers with dirty cars visit the 11 carwashes he owns in Orange County, visitors to the Newport Harbor Art Museum--which Shea chairs--are not always as plentiful.

Now, however, Shea figures he and his son Mike have arrived at a way to turn some of his carwash customers into museum patrons--at least for an exhibit of modern San Francisco artists' work that will be shown at the museum from Oct. 3 to Nov. 23.

Until the exhibit ends, the Sheas' Beacon Bay carwashes will give customers coupons good for a free art poster and a 50% discount of the admission price at the museum. The discount program was organized by Mike Shea, vice president of the family-owned company, which also is underwriting the cost of the exhibit.

Regular admission--at the museum--is $3 for adults, $2 for students, seniors and soldiers and $1 for children. A carwash generally costs more.

"The main intent is to try to build more traffic at the museum," said Jack Shea, who collects modern American art and displays posters and lithos in all of the carwashes and commercial and industrial buildings his company operates.

Shea, however, is not a painter. "I have sense enough to know I can't," he said. "I've tried."

Shea has been successful with his company, Newport Beach-based Beacon Bay Enterprises Inc., which owns commercial and industrial buildings in addition to the carwashes. Together, those operations post annual revenue of about $18 million, Shea said. But at this stage in his career, it is the museum's budget that holds Shea's attention. Like all museums, said the 62-year-old businessman, the Newport Harbor Art Museum is "always fighting to stay even. The operating budget has tripled in the last five years," he said, and is now $1.7 million.

Although the museum "would starve" if it relied on admission tickets to meet its budget, Shea hopes that some of the visitors drawn by his promotion program eventually will turn into donors--whose funds provide the museum's main source of support.

The exhibit Shea is promoting, the "Second Newport Biennial: The Bay Area," will consist of paintings, sculptures and photographs. Many of the artists whose work will be displayed will be receiving their first major exposure in Southern California, Shea said.

The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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