The Honolulu Academy of Arts and the Contemporary Museum will sign a letter of intent tomorrow to "review the possibility" of merging their operations, according to a letter sent from Academy interim director Lynne Johnson to the museum’s members this week.
According to the letter, the nonbinding agreement will initiate a period of due diligence "wherein the two parties will analyze the issues of continuing with the mission of The Contemporary Museum by combining exhibitions, collections, education programs, the boards, assets, staff, galleries and storage."
Neither Johnson nor Violet Loo, chairman of the Contemporary Museum’s board of directors, could be reached for comment last night.
The purpose of the merger would be to create a single, financially stable organization that maintains the strengths of both organizations, Johnson said in the letter.
Discussions regarding a possible merger have been ongoing for more than a year; Academy staff were first briefed on the talks on Aug. 11, 2009.
The announcement comes as both arts organizations continue to cope with fallout from the economic downturn.
In 2008, the Contemporary Museum laid off half of its 11 full-time and 14 part-time employees, equivalent to half of its staff. The Academy of Arts has lost several positions due to layoffs, attrition or early retirement.
"This is not an endeavor we approach lightly," Johnson wrote in the letter to members. "Trustees and staffs of both museums are hard at work examining how the two organizations could successfully become one, taking every aspect of museum work into account, from installing exhibitions to fundraising."
Johnson said an outside consultant could be retained to help with the process, which is expected to continue through November.