The Met’s $3 billion endowment couldn’t save it from layoffs as iconic museum struggles with pandemic

The Metropolitan Museum of Art reopens its doorways to the general public on Saturday after the coronavirus pandemic pressured it to shut for an unprecedented 5 months.

The iconic New York City museum, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this 12 months, is projecting $150 million in misplaced income from the pandemic via subsequent June and needed to minimize its workers by 20% via a combos of layoffs, furloughs and early retirement packages. Like many museums all through the world, the Met is going through an unsure street forward.

“It’s an exceptionally difficult time for the cultural landscape,” spokesman Ken Weine mentioned in an interview.  “We are very eager to reopen. But we will be reopening in a very different environment.”

Across the nation, cultural establishments of all sizes have skilled severe monetary challenges through the pandemic. According to a June survey from the American Alliance of Museums, 16% of museums believed they confronted a big threat of everlasting closure with out extra monetary aid.

Even the Met — with a $3.3 billion endowment and a 150-year historical past of beneficiant donors — has struggled amid the monetary shock.

Before the pandemic, the museum was on its solution to balancing its finances, in keeping with CFO Jamie Kelleher.

“But of course, Covid hit and the world changed,” she mentioned.

The Met closed on March 13 after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency and shuttered most cultural establishments. That left the museum, which has an annual finances of round $300 million, with none of its common income from admissions, retail gross sales and eating places. Its greater than 2 million sq. toes of gallery area, often crammed with each vacationers and native New Yorkers, sat empty.

The museum minimize spending on programming and new acquisitions and in addition trimmed government pay. It additionally has acquired about $four million by way of the CARES Act Employee Retention Credit.

“Those measures were taken with an eye toward doing everything we could to preserve jobs,” Weine mentioned. 

The Met in the end determined to scale back its headcount by greater than 400 positions — some 20% of its workers. These cuts had been made via a mixture of volunteer retirement applications, furloughs and layoffs.

When the coronavirus disaster first hit, the museum launched an emergency aid fund, which redirects some endowment earnings as properly as help from trustees and different donors. To date, the museum’s trustees have raised $30 million for this effort.

“So that fund is going to be able to address half, if not more than half, of the lost revenue that we expect over this period,” Kelleher mentioned.

Memberships, which often makes up about 10% of complete income for the Met, aren’t anticipated to drop considerably. Members are “very eager to return,” Weine says, and had been in a position to go Thursday and Friday earlier than it reopened to most of the people. 

Most company help comes via exhibition sponsorships, Kelleher says. Despite modified exhibition dates, most sponsors have remained versatile and  have not pulled any important offers, she mentioned. 

Bank of America is the lead company sponsor of “Making The Met, 1870-2020” — the signature exhibition celebrating the Met’s 150th anniversary. The exhibition options greater than 250 artistic endeavors and explores the museum’s historical past and growth.

“What is unique about the American system of funding culture, and philanthropic funding in general, is it’s philanthropy that funds many of the things that our society treasures and relies on the most,” Weine mentioned.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced Aug. 14 that museums, along with aquariums and different cultural facilities, in New York City would have the ability to reopen August 24. The state requires working at 25% capability, with timed entry. Masks and temperature checks can even be required.

“The challenges will continue, even after we reopen,” Weine mentioned.

The Met has seen report numbers of holiday makers lately. In Fiscal Year 2019, 28% of the Met’s greater than 7 million guests had been worldwide vacationers. Now, the Met shall be reopening to a restricted and virtually solely native viewers.

“What has been striking in these months is how uncertain the terrain is and how every day, it can and has moved in a different direction, from the public health reality to the pace of the economic recovery,” Weine mentioned.

In this surroundings, making ready for the longer term could be a difficult process. The Met is constant to mannequin a number of completely different situations for the months and years forward.

Kelleher says that what appeared to be pessimistic outlooks 6 months in the past have truly turned out to be optimistic. 

“We need to be prepared to be able to weather a storm that is a lot longer than we ever thought,” she mentioned.

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