US Arts Institutions Continue to Struggle as Pandemic Grinds On
February 23, 2021
Six hundred advocates have banded together under the aegis of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) to seek financial relief from the US government for the country’s ailing arts institutions, The Art Newspaperreports. Citing fears that many museums may be forced to close permanently in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, the AAM announced that February 22–23 would stand as Museums Advocacy Day. The organization used the occasion to issue an appeal to the government to provide congressional funding for museum programs sponsored by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, among other agencies. It also asked Congress to allow Americans to deduct charitable contributions on their tax returns without having specified the entities to which they donated, and called for Congress to support increases in funding for the Shuttered Venue Operators grants, established by Congress in December with an initial $15 billion available to venues that were compelled to close as the pandemic raged.
“Museum recovery will take years and without a sustained congressional lifeline, I fear that many museums will be lost forever,” said AAM president and CEO Laura Lott in a statement.
Emblematic of the issues the AAM is battling, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York announced on Monday that it had been forced to cut fifteen staff positions across eleven departments owing to “extremely low” attendance. The institution shuttered in March as Covid-19 hit New York, shedding 76 of its 420 jobs in April. Since reopening in September, it has been operating at the state-mandated 25 percent capacity. In an email explaining the most recent layoffs to staff, Whitney director Adam Weinberg noted that revenue generated by ticket sales was down 80 percent from a year ago, and that the museum had additionally suffered “greatly reduced” income owing to its loss of events earnings. Weinberg estimated that the institution has lost $23 million in revenue since the pandemic struck, and warned staff that visitors might not return in force until 2025.