"I was the first person hired back," said Valerio, who had been assistant director of administration at the Philadelphia Museum of Art until Woodmere hired him in September 2010.
"Woodmere, like everybody else, went through staff cuts and furloughs," he said. "My job - and this is a challenge in the continuing shaky fiscal environment - I have to create a new culture of fund-raising at Woodmere."
The museum has hired a director of development and is in the last stages of its search for a new curator. Visitation (45,000) is up about 10 percent this year and the operating budget of $1.9 million is up about 15 percent over fiscal 2009.
"Things are improving," Valerio said.
At Valerio's old shop, the Art Museum, president and chief operating officer Gail Harrity said, "we have stabilized." Since the fiscal crisis began, the museum has reduced its staff by about 7 percent and imposed salary freezes and some reductions.
In the current fiscal year, salary cuts have been rescinded, hiring has resumed, and salaries are up 2 percent, she said.
"We are encouraged," Harrity said, noting that the museum also has carried out two capital projects (with a combined cost of about $81 million) since the 2008 downturn: renovation and restoration of the Rodin Museum and grounds on the Parkway, and construction of a facility on the museum's west side for moving art.
A dozen curatorial, conservation, and other professional positions are now endowed by donors, Harrity said, which has had a significant impact on the museum's ability to live within its operating budget of $55 million.
At the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which has an operating budget this year of $18 million, president and chief executive David R. Brigham said his institution was expanding and growing.
"In each of the last eight years, we have added staff and programs," he said. Some positions may be eliminated in one area, Brigham acknowledged, but that has been part of an ongoing effort to "actively manage programs and staff" at the academy's museum and school: "We haven't eliminated programs."
"Our budget last year was about $16 million," he said. "We're not talking modest growth. This year we're talking about $2 million."
Enrollment in the graduate and undergraduate programs is down slightly, to 343 (there were 349 students enrolled last year). But Brigham said there had been net growth in the size of the staff.
The academy seeks a new conservator, a preparator (to supervise art moving and storage), and a dean of admissions and financial aid, among other posts.
The heads of the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford and the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown tell similar stories of immediate concern in 2008, some retrenchment, and then cautious growth.
At the Brandywine, James H. Duff, head of the Brandywine Conservancy, which runs the museum and an environmental management center, said five of 125 conservancy positions were eliminated in 2010 and the organization's budget has stagnated in the $8.5 million range.
"For one year, everything was frozen," said Duff, who will step down at the end of 2011. "Since then, we've had salary and wage increases, but very minimal."
The Michener put a hold on construction of its Syd and Sharon Martin Wing for more than six months after the 2008 crisis. That exhibition area is now complete and a new event pavilion is to open in May. Total combined cost: more than $16 million.
Bruce Katsiff, soon-to-retire museum director and chief executive, said his staff was down about 12 percent from pre-crisis levels; there are no plans to hire in the immediate future.
Still, he said, "the corner has definitely turned and attendance is starting to pick up again."
Contact culture writer Stephan Salisbury at 215-854-5594, email@example.com, or @SPSalisbury on Twitter.