April 9, 2020
Mass. Cultural Nonprofits Hit Hard by Coronavirus Crisis

March 26, 2020 — Nonprofit cultural organizations across Massachusetts reported a loss of $55.7 million in one week due to the coronavirus pandemic, as virtually all performances and other events have been cancelled or postponed, leading to a growing slate of layoffs, including the elimination of 120 of 165 jobs at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, known as MASS MoCA.

Layoffs at cultural organization mirror the larger statewide picture: nearly 148,000 people filed for unemployment benefits in Massachusetts last week, according to federal data published today. That compares to 22,028 claims filed in December 2008 during the worst week of the Great Recession.

On Monday, the Provincetown Film Society, a Provincetown nonprofit, announced the that Provincetown International Film Festival will not be held in mid-June, leading it to cut 50 part-time jobs, according to the Cape Cod Times. Recently, the society laid off six part-timers laid off when it shut down the Waters Edge Cinema.

According to the Mass Cultural Council (MCC), a state agency supporting the arts, humanities, and sciences, based on a survey, 566 cultural nonprofits polled March 16-22 reported losing $55.7M in revenue during March 16-22.

Describing the results as "dire," MCC said:
  • Total lost revenue reported is $55,748,138, which averages out to $133,368 per organization reporting specific losses.
  • 88% reported cancelling programs and events, resulting in a total of 14,978 cancellations.
  • 58% of organizations plan on laying off, furloughing and/or reducing hours for staff.
  • 8,221 jobs will be impacted, and artists will be the hardest hit:
Anita Walker, executive director of MCC, said the organization is "revisiting our FY20 spending plan with a critical eye to assess how we might redeploy unspent dollars as emergency mitigation funds to support our artists and cultural nonprofits."

MASS MoCA to Lay Off 120 of Its 165 Employees

MASS MoCA yesterday announced that, due to business interruptions caused by COVID-19, the disease caused by a coronavirus, and related government mandates, it will lay off 120 of its 165 employees, effective April 11.

The workforce reduction will affect every department, including management.

MASS MoCA said all employees, including hourly and part-time staff, will receive their regular paychecks through March 27, whether they have been able to work or not.

Moving forward, all employees will receive at least 70% of their regular pay through April 10. Those employees who will be laid off, and who participated in the organization’s healthcare plan, will continue to be fully covered through July 31, with the medical insurance premiums covered 100% by MASS MoCA.

After April 10, a small corps of security, buildings and grounds, and custodial staff will remain on full-time payroll, maintaining and securing the site.

MASS MoCA’s remaining employees will take voluntary reductions in work hours, or reductions in salaries of 18%-28% on a tiered schedule based on salary amounts (with the highest reductions applied to the highest salary tier). These remaining employees will be responsible for fundraising, facilities management, and contingency planning for the organization’s re-launch.

MASS MoCA Director Joseph Thompson said, “The COVID-19 contagion strikes at the very heart of our mission, which is to gather together large numbers of people around acts of creativity. So the pain is compounded. We are also aware of the role that MASS MoCA’s operations and programs play within the local and regional economy, and we will do everything within our power to re-launch at the soonest possible instant, following guidance from public health officials.”

MASS MoCA cancelled or postponed all performances as of March 7, and closed its museum galleries to the public as of March 15.

Seventy percent of the organization’s annual budget comes from earned revenue sources such as museum gate, concert tickets, and concessions.

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