Akron— The Akron Art Museum will be closed to the public until at least June 30. “The museum has made this decision, proactively, for the health and well-being of the staff and community despite the financial hardship it will cause the organization,” said Mark Masuoka, the John S. Knight Director and CEO. “The safety of our community is paramount. While we could have waited to react to evolving government decisions, the uncertainty this causes our staff and community adds stress in an already uncertain time.” The museum is in the process of making widespread changes to mitigate the precarious position this decision causes.
The museum previously announced canceling programs through April 30. With this move, many more programs are impacted. Late spring and early summer bring many patrons to the Akron Art Museum. The prolonged closure required the cancellation of 81 programs, including 45 school tours. Overall, more than 2,000 children were impacted, along with countless families and other patrons.
“Making cuts and changes are painful but necessary. The museum began with conversations across the board about stalling all discretionary expenses and other spending.” Numerous changes will be made to run through the calendar year. The museum’s quarterly publication, View, will be published as digital-only. Travel expenses are being cut. The library and archives will be closed to the external reference queries until further notice. Much of the on-site programming will be scaled back throughout the rest of the year. These changes were made not only to decrease expenses but to manage risk. “Connecting patrons to collections is why museums exist, and we’ll continue to do that virtually,” said Masuoka, “but we also need to think about the staff. Minimizing uncertainty is essential to being able to survive these tough times.” The school tour program will be scaled back as well as our Thursday family programs until January 2021. The exhibition program will be reconsidered and possibly scaled back. Some previously funded partner programs will be moved to virtual platforms, like the program for seniors, Meet Me at the Museum. The wildly popular Downtown at Dusk summer concert series will be likely be impacted as well.
The Annual Auction and Art and Ale, fundraisers which collectively generate 5.5% of the annual operating income, will ideally be postponed until fall. “Postponing the Auction was the right choice but a tough one. It’s well-loved and brings in important revenue. Our board recommended postponing the event, and our generous sponsors understood we could not convene such a large group during this pandemic,” Masuoka said.
“Despite belt-tightening measures, we could find no way to make it through this unprecedented situation without making changes to staffing,” continued Masuoka. The Akron Art Museum is facing a $329,000 direct shortfall in earned income. The total impact of the closure, including potentially lost memberships and donation losses due to the financial downturn, is estimated to be $933,000. The museum’s annual overall budget allocations are based in part on anticipated earned income. This closure lost the museum 22% of the anticipated operating budget. Nearly 63% of the fixed cost of the organization is staffing. “We’ve been fortunate for the generosity of our sponsors, donors, and foundations who are committed to supporting us, but many of them are facing the same difficult decisions,” said Masuoka. “This decision is very difficult, and not one I took lightly. Our staff is exceptional, and this choice is no reflection of their work. My goal is to stabilize our organization so that we can bring our employees back to work as soon as possible.”
The staffing changes will impact 100% of the organization. “The leadership team unanimously voted to take a 10% pay cut,” said Masuoka. The market has adversely impacted our endowment value and will affect the amount of future draws available. Rather than take an additional draw from the endowment, the board authorized the use of its “rainy-day fund,” and exploring the consideration of activating a line of credit. Masuoka said, “We did everything we could to increase the number of staff we could retain in various capacities, and we are very grateful for the board’s continued support.”
The action affected all departments. Status changes were based on the immediate needs of maintaining the museum’s essential operations and maintaining a continued connection to patrons during a prolonged closure. All full-time employees will be impacted: 11% will be furloughed, 32% changed to part-time status with work responsibilities decreasing accordingly, 36% will be retained at full time with a 5% pay cut, and work responsibilities decreased accordingly. All part-time employees will be furloughed.
“My goal was to explore ways to ensure some measure of comfort for our staff within our limited means,” said Masuoka. Employees will be paid full wages until May 1. The employee share of health insurance premiums for any full-time employees facing a status change will be paid through June 30. The museum will be available to help impacted staff with unemployment procedures. Staff will be able to return to their original roles at their original salary when and if those positions become available.
“We understand job changes further impact the terrible stress of this situation, and we anticipate bringing back our staff as soon as possible,” said Masuoka. Expenditure cuts in the upcoming fiscal year will decrease the future risk of cash flow challenges and workload for returning staff. “We’re focusing on the period after furlough, which will include a leaner budget for the upcoming year. Our Advancement Team is currently hard at work with our donors, sponsors, and foundations to ensure the financial and institutional health of our museum for the future.”
For more information about the Akron Art Museum, visit the museum online and on social media.