Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts plans to furlough “approximately 340 staff,” according to a spokesperson, as it deals with the huge financial ramifications of having to be closed since the evening of March 12 to help stem the spread of coronavirus. And the museum plans to remain closed through at least June 30, it announced today.
As part of “cost containment measures,” the museum says, it will “utilize endowment funds to the extent possible, and furlough staff eligible for unemployment insurance and new government programs. All eligible employees will receive full health care benefits and there will be no layoffs at this time.”
MFA Director Matthew Teitelbaum “will reduce his compensation by 30 percent during this period,” the museum announced.
The Museum of Fine Arts had previously announced on March 31 that it would “cancel all of the Museum’s events and programs through August 31, 2020.” Teitelbaum had broached these scenarios in a March 25 email to staff. In that letter, he added, “In the event that we are closed beyond July 1, 2020 (and we are using September 15 as a date for this alternative planning), there may be additional necessary measures. It is too early to know what these are … The impact of this health crisis will have long-term consequences for museums for years to come. We expect people to be cautious for quite some time about gathering indoors with others even when the crisis has passed. It is expected that tourism and travel will be slow to return. Financial markets and endowments have been affected, impacting philanthropy and endowment income. With these new realities, there is a great imperative for us to plan purposefully for the future. Our entire community needs us to do so.”
The museum’s full April 3, 2020, announcement follows:
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Announces Extended Closure and Staff Furloughs
BOSTON (April 3, 2020)—Due to the ongoing public health crisis, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), announced today that the MFA will remain closed through June 30, 2020. In order to offset the significant financial ramifications caused by the closure, the Museum will implement cost containment measures, utilize endowment funds to the extent possible, and furlough staff eligible for unemployment insurance and new government programs. All eligible employees will receive full health care benefits and there will be no layoffs at this time. Additionally, Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund Director, will reduce his compensation by 30 percent during this period.
“From the beginning of this unprecedented moment, our primary goal was to minimize financial stress for our staff,” said Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund Director. “We know it’s impossible to feel completely safe in such uncertain times, but it is our hope that this plan will provide some financial security in the coming months. I am profoundly grateful for the professionalism of this group, the care they demonstrate for one another, and the dedication they have to our work—even in this most difficult of times. A talented staff is at the center of a strong MFA, now and in the future.”
In making the decision regarding which employees will be furloughed, the Museum struck a balance between work needs during closure and a calculation of how to keep all staff—for this period— as close to their original compensation as possible. Furloughed staff members will be eligible for unemployment insurance and supplemental income under the terms of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Notifications will begin next week, and furloughs will continue through June 30; however, the MFA may need to revise this course of action should the situation around the pandemic change.
“For 150 years, the MFA has offered beauty and emotional resonance to our community,” said Kevin Callaghan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. “The heart and soul of this great institution is the staff, and our first priority was to provide support for this extraordinary team that brings the Museum to life. It is our hope that this solution provides some stability during an extremely difficult time.”
Additional decisions—including developing a strategy to guide the long-term health of the Museum—will be made in the coming months as more information becomes available and the financial impact on the Museum is clear. Expectations are that implications of the pandemic could affect visitation for all cultural organizations long into the future, and that museums will likely reopen with a much different model.
The MFA originally closed the evening of March 12, and, in an announcement earlier this week, cancelled all live public programs and internal special events through August 31. The exhibition and programming schedule is currently under evaluation and, when possible, an announcement will be made regarding the future calendar.
March 26: Museum Of Fine Arts Doesn’t Expect To Reopen Before July, Mulls Layoffs
April 1: MFA Cancels All Events And Programs Through Aug. 31
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