Director, Events and Catering Sales
Portland Art Museum
Oregon Business: Why are so many “unique meeting venues” like museums, zoos and historic sites hosting business events these days?
Bruce Goldberg: You’re dealing with a more sophisticated client than in years past. Their exposure to TV and magazines and the Internet has made their demand for something unique that much greater. That demand for unique venues actually spans well outside of the type of venues you just mentioned. They now include things like refabricated warehouses, parking garages and buildings in the process of development, you name it. It makes for a more interesting event when people can’t go, “Oh, right, it’s another event at that hotel in that ballroom and having that menu.” I think the clients out there are demanding it.
OB: How important are private events to PAM?
BG: The revenue source for the museum is essential. The museum’s a nonprofit, so much like charging tickets for people to walk through the gallery, the revenue that’s generated from events goes straight to the bottom line and supports the operation of the facility. We do well in excess of 400 events a year.
OB: What types of companies and organizations book events at PAM?
BG: All manner of businesses, individuals, groups and nonprofits throughout the country who, for whatever reason, find themselves in Portland. The art museum probably is responsible for the lion’s share of the more high-profile nonprofit events. Plus, you’ve got convention business. There are a handful of large corporate clients that make use of our facility — the Nikes, the Columbia Sportswears. We have everything from small meetings to major multiday events that involve primary registration areas and breakout rooms.
OB: Do art collections influence the event business?
BG: Yeah, but to a lesser degree than you might think. A variety of our clients will respond very positively to the notion of incorporating museum tours as part of their overall event package. For example, if somebody were planning a dinner or a fundraiser, and we suggested they give their guests the opportunity to go through anywhere from one to four floors of the CMCA wing, you’d be amazed how many people that hadn’t even occurred to. There are specific exhibits; the most recent that had a very large impact on overall business would have been the “Allure of the Automobile” exhibit about two years ago. Because that covered such a wide demographic of interests, everything from car enthusiasts to art and design students, there were people who had never set foot in a museum in their lives. And as a result, there were a lot of events tailored to appeal to that broad demographic.
OB: What are your expectations for event business at PAM in the coming years?
BG: Short of a repeat of what happened in 2008 or ’09, I think we’re going to continue to grow. There was obviously a stunted growth period from 2008-11. This last year, I think, is when the spring flowers began to blossom and people started kind of saying, ‘Yeah, we’re back.’