Mass MoCA Lays Off Majority Of Staff As Coronavirus Closures Continue To Batter Cultural Institution

Mar 26, 2020
Originally published on March 26, 2020 10:08 am

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams announced it would lay off 120 of its 165 employees, citing lost revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic. The staff reduction goes into effect April 11.

“I am saddened by this drastic staff reduction, which will affect many of my colleagues and friends, and I join our Trustees and remaining staff in doing everything within my power to get as many as possible back to work rebuilding this great institution as soon as possible,” Mass MoCA director Joseph Thompson said in a statement posted to the museum’s website.

With its announcement, Mass MoCA became the first major Massachusetts museum to institute wide-scale layoffs since the pandemic began. The state’s cultural sector has already been hit hard by coronavirus closures, with nonprofit cultural organizations reporting more than $55.7 million in lost revenue in the first week of the health crisis, according to the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

According to Mass MoCA’s statement, laid-off employees will receive their regular paychecks through March 27 and after that receive at least 70% of their normal pay through April 10. Employees covered through the museum’s healthcare plan will remain covered through July. The reductions touch every department, including management.

Mass MoCA’s endowment only accounts for 7.5% of its annual budget, the majority of which is made through concert tickets, entry fees and concessions. Mass MoCA began canceling events on March 7 as concerns about the spread of the coronavirus increased. It closed its doors on March 15, the same day Governor Baker banned gatherings of 25 people or more. Since then, all non-essential businesses in Massachusetts have been ordered to shutter.

Mass MoCA’s remaining staff will work in fundraising, facilities management and “contingency planning for the organization’s relaunch.” The museum said those employees would take voluntary reductions in hours or salary.

“We will do everything within our power to relaunch at the soonest possible instant, following guidance from public health officials,” Thompson said.

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