Art Market

Museums across the U.S. laid off staff in response to COVID-19.

Justin Kamp
Mar 26, 2020 4:28PM, via Plain Dealer

The exterior of Los Angeles' Hammer Museum. Photo by George Rose via Getty Images.

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the United States, museums around the country have begun to lay off large portions of their staff. On Tuesday, Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) notified all 97 of its part-time employees as well as those involved in the museum’s Contemporary Art Start educational program that they would be let go. UCLA’s Hammer Museum laid off 150 part-time student workers the same day.

Both institutions primarily laid off staff whose jobs required on-site work and could not be performed remotely. MOCA will pay all furloughed staff through the end of March, while the Hammer Museum will pay its workers until April 10th. While both museums stated they plan to rehire laid-off workers upon reopening, neither museum has set a firm opening date.

The Cleveland Museum of Art announced similar cutbacks in anticipation of a projected $5-million loss in revenue, according to the Plain Dealer. The museum fired all of its part-time staff and a portion of its unionized workers. It also implemented an hourly reduction in salary for all nonunion staff, equivalent to a pay cut of approximately 11 to 15 percent. The museum had previously planned to reopen on March 31st, but announced on Wednesday that it will remain closed indefinitely.

As museums across the country continue to lay off staff, advocacy groups have called for a federal arts bailout. In a letter addressed to Congressional leaders, the American Alliance of Museums asked that a $4-billion arts relief fund be included in the $2 trillion stimulus package working its way through Congress; the Metropolitan Museum of Art echoed that call for aid with a social media campaign, #CongressSaveCulture.

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Further Reading: Ongoing Coverage of COVID-19’s Impact on the Art World

Justin Kamp