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The magical pastel visions that flowed from the brush of French artist Claude Monet early this century should leave a lasting impression on directors of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the leaders of other cultural institutions in Western New York. The 14-week Monet exhibit brought fun to the city, and cash to the gallery's coffers.

A consultant will spend the next month or so analyzing the exhibit's financial impact on the community. We already know, however, that the exhibit, which featured the Impressionist master's soft and shimmering depictions of his gardens, was clearly a success. Attendance shattered gallery records, and gallery membership increased by 3,500 to a new high of more than 9,000.

Just as clearly, the exhibit loaned by the Musee Marmottan should be a blueprint for future ventures. The gallery board's commitment to periodic future special events is right on track for a better cultural future in this area.

As the Burchfield-Penney Art Center is discovering now with its display of Frank Lloyd Wright windows, special events can have huge benefits both in ticket revenues and in reviving or boosting local interest in museums. Attendance for the first month of the Wright windows exhibit was 8,036, the most successful event the center has ever produced.

The Buffalo Museum of Science learned a similar lesson earlier with a string of special events dating back to its first Dinosaurs! exhibit. The Albright-Knox itself saw earlier successes, with the William S. Paley Collection in 1995 and the 1997 display of Dale Chihuly glass sculptures.

Such exhibits undoubtedly encouraged the gallery's board to invest in this year's major special event. It paid off. The 166,712 visitors not only shattered the previous record of 86,000 set by the Chihuly show, but topped the gallery's own hopes by nearly 30,000 tickets.

Even more importantly, though, gallery Director Douglas D. Schultz took a major step forward for all local cultural institutions by involving other museums and organizations in a joint cultural marketing effort. The "Summer of Monet" showcased a range of local museums and events in the kind of cooperative venture that could boost efforts to develop a museum district and encourage a synergy that will benefit all of this region's cultural treasures.

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