Due to the onslaught of the coronavirus, museums all over the world are having to deal with the reality of hugely diluted revenue streams and the sudden fact that many of their employees aren’t going to be able to be paid. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, which has been identified as a canary in the coal mine when it comes to best practices for worldwide arts institutions, will be closed at least until July and is already grappling with the inevitability of layoffs and millions of dollars in losses. On Tuesday, the Met also announced that they’re kicking off a campaign called #CongressSaveCulture in order to advocate for $4 billion in government support for financially at-risk non-profit arts organizations. The Met is hoping that these funds will be included in the federal stimulus package that’s currently being debated in Congress.
“As we prioritize the health and safety of people around the globe first and foremost, we must also plan for the world we will re-enter once this crisis finally subsides,” Daniel H. Weiss, the President and CEO of the Met, said in a statement. “With that in mind, we must ensure that arts organizations, large and small, will be able to withstand the economic devastation so many are facing.” Specifically, the Met also suggested the implementation of a universal charitable tax deduction, so that donating to at-risk arts institutions seems like an even more attractive prospect.
The museum is directing supporters of their campaign to the American Alliance of Museums website, where they have the option to send affirmative letters to members of Congress. According to a letter sent on March 18 by members of the AAM to Congress, the American museum community contributes $50 billion a year to the U.S. economy and supports 726,000 jobs annually; this is exactly the sort of ecosystem that is currently being brutalized by the relentless pandemic. The artist-founded Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles was recently forced to lay off 97 part-time workers, and that’s just one of the thousands of institutions across the country that have instantly been rendered vulnerable beyond belief.
Workers and museums alike are facing dire times, and community solidarity will only go so far: it’s up to the government to do the right thing.