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NYC museums and galleries losing millions, trying to survive COVID-19

Posted at 8:39 PM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-11 20:39:28-04

NEW YORK — The road to recovery will be a long one for New York City’s nearly 100 museums and countless more galleries and other cultural institutions.

The American Museum of Natural History is laying off or furloughing 450 staffers and projecting a deficit of between $80 million and $120 million. It is the latest sign that the pandemic, which has shuttered these institutions, has had a huge impact on the arts and the jobs associated with the arts.

Many are trying to continue their educational missions virtually. The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space museum is running virtual tours, holding events such as video Q&As with astronauts.

However, Lynda Kennedy, Intrepid’s Vice President of Education & Evaluation, knows with the no ticket sales, the next year plus will be a challenging one.

“The museum has always operated lean and mean, and right now we’re leaner and meaner,” she said. “We just hope to get back to some sort of normal functionality as soon as possible.”

Paul Hardart with NYU’s Stern School of Business said smaller institutions without big endowments or fundraising bases will be particularly hard hit.

“When the revenue stops, the cost does not stop,” he said. “There’s mortgages and taxes and upkeep. The challenge is the cost has remained and the revenue has disappeared.”

Much of the arts are also funded by charitable contributions, which could be more difficult to make at this time. However, Jan Jones with the University of New Haven said now might actually be a decent time to ask for money. She points out that people who can afford it are looking to support causes in their own backyard.

“Some of the nonprofits I’m speaking with and working with, they’ve been successful in getting help in places they’ve never looked before,” she said. “This is not the time to not ask for help, this is the time to ask when you need it the most.”

However, the questions about how to safetl get patrons back in the doors with social distancing when the time is right, is a question each institution will have to answer.

“Take in all the information,” said Kennedy of the Intrepid’s planning for this. “In some ways, we’ll have to have a plan A-B-C-D and see where it goes.”

American Alliance of Museums COVID-19 guidance is here.