Arts Desk

The Rally to Double Museum Attendance!

Bored by the home-made signs, disappointed that I could barely see and hear what was going on onstage, and hoping to escape the crush of the crowd, I wandered into the west building of the National Gallery of Art on Saturday, where I wasn't the only person who'd come to the National Mall for the Rally that day to restore sanity and/or fear. The atrium was packed, and I wrote as much in Washington City Paper's live-blog of the day's events.

Most of the crowd, a volunteer told me, seemed to be there in search of bathrooms and/or food—though certainly some art was being consumed, including by some people in fake costume and carrying fake signage.

So: What did the rally and its estimated attendance of 200,000-plus mean for the museum? On Saturday, the National Gallery drew 35,186 visitors, according to museum numbers sent to me by Deborah Ziska, NGA's chief of press and public information. Compare that to the Sept.4-Oct. 23 Saturday average of 14,594. The previous Saturday, the National Gallery drew 18,719 visitors. This coming Saturday, it'll break 700,000 because of the Lady Gaga appearance I just announced in this sentence.

Of course, there are many variables that affect attendance, like "holidays, weather, tourism flow, gallery exhibitions and programs and promotion, events (good and bad) that we have no control over (Marine Marathon, Inaugural, street festivals, rallies, demonstrations),etc., etc.," Ziska writes. "Having said all of that, many of the larger rallies and demonstrations within our vicinity do increase our attendance, whether people are coming for the art and/or amenities (restrooms and restaurants and shops)!"

Plus! As far as I could tell, the lines for the NGA's bathrooms were somewhat shorter than the lines outside for Jon Stewart's Porta Potties.

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