The Illinois State Museum's Lockport Gallery, known for showcasing the works of contemporary artists, as well as historical exhibits, has beaten back the state budget woes that led to its closure a year ago.

The gallery in late September became the third Illinois State Museum site to re-open to the public after all five of the museum's locations were shuttered because of the state's ongoing fiscal standoff between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic state lawmakers.

“(The gallery) was basically closed to the public for 11 months, but we continued our behind-the-scenes work, our research and working with the inventory and the collections," Lockport Gallery Director John Lustig said.

During the imposed down time, Lustig said some people retired and others took other positions, with the staff ultimately dropping from 65 to 28 total staff members, "a substantial loss to the museum and the community."

Still, the Lockport Gallery got the go-ahead to re-open after an effort to reach out and galvanize longstanding supporters in the wider community garnered $50,000 in donations -- a significant drop from what had been the gallery's usual $180,000 to $200,000 in annual funding, but still enough to get gallery operations back up and running.

Lustig said he and his staff now understand their future is more reliant than ever on the support of outside donors.

"We doubled-down on those efforts and so we formed a partnership with the City of Lockport, and our museum has a 501 component, a not-for-profit component," Lustig said. "It's expanding that menu of partnerships that were already in place, but it's also getting them involved obviously at a level that's going to help us sustain ourselves in the long-run."

According to a story distributed by Illinois-based Shaw Media, the Dickson Mounds Museum in Lewistown reopened July 2, as did the main Illinois State Museum in Springfield. The museums at Rend Lake and in the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago remain closed.

The Springfield museum has started charging a nominal $5 admission fee. While some in Lockport have suggested that the gallery should also ask for an entry fee, Lustig doesn't expect that to happen.

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