The Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena and the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana are cutting their budgets -- 20% and 10%, respectively -- by laying off employees and canceling or delaying exhibitions.
The Pacific Asia Museum also plans to hike its $7 admission fee by $1 or $2 and begin charging for lectures and workshops that previously were free.
"It's painful to let good people go and cut back programs, but my job and the trustees' is to look at the long-term health of the museum," said Pacific Asia director Joan Marshall.
Both museums, ironically, are coming off major successes.
In September, the Pacific Asia finished a three-year, $4.4-million pay-as-you-go remodeling and infrastructure upgrade. Marshall said this year's attendance is expected to be about 50,000 -- a 20% increase over last year.
In mid-October, the Bowers closed its exhibition of ancient Chinese terra-cotta warriors, which director Peter Keller said netted $5 million after drawing 210,000 visitors.
Bowers leaders had decided in advance that they would not touch the $5 million, Keller said, but would put it away as a financial backstop for the future. Although the recent stock market retreat has whittled away at the museum's endowment, which Keller said is less than $10 million, he said the warriors money remains intact.
In another conservative move, he said, the Bowers has established a $500,000 revolving fund to pay the upfront costs of exhibitions. That fund and keeping hands off the terra-cotta cash made it necessary to economize, Keller said, by cutting a $5-million budget to about $4.5 million. Two weeks ago, the Bowers let go three staffers involved with fundraising and membership.
Besides the staff reductions, the Bowers will run its current show of photography from Africa until Aug. 16 -- an extension of four months. Another show is being pushed back from May until early 2010.
At the Pacific Asia Museum, development director David Spiro and an employee in the collections department lost their jobs Dec. 1 as part of efforts to reduce the budget for 2009 from $2 million to about $1.6 million. In addition, three smaller planned temporary exhibitions are being canceled.
Marshall said the museum's small endowment has taken a hit, dropping from $1.2 million to about $800,000, which could mean a deficit for 2008.