Smaller arts organizations face financial ruin because of COVID-19

The Tenement Museum, located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
The Tenement Museum, located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Shutterstock
The Tenement Museum, located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, has had to lay off much of its staff as it faces major revenue shortfalls as a result of COVID-19.

Smaller arts organizations face financial ruin because of COVID-19

Most are seeing major revenue losses and widespread layoffs.
April 9, 2020

Most small and mid-sized arts organizations in New York City have had to cut their budgets and reduce staffing after the COVID-19 outbreak led to widespread event cancellations and the closure of all non-essential businesses, according to a new report from the Center for an Urban Future, a New York City-based think tank.

Many of the organizations expect to see steep revenue losses, the report noted. For example, the Nuyorican Poets Café projected it would lose nearly half its annual revenue if it remained closed through July. The Tenement Museum had to lay off all 75 of its part-time workers and several full-time employees. The funding challenges are particularly bad for some organizations that rely heavily on earned income, like the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, which derives about 70% of its budget from initiatives such as on-site music lessons and music education programs for public schools and other venues.

Larger organizations have been hurt as well, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which projected a $100 million shortfall because of the crisis last month. But the report said smaller organizations face even greater uncertainty. 

“Although larger cultural institutions are also facing stunning losses, many smaller cultural groups don’t have the benefit of endowments or large donor bases to help cushion the blow as they experience staggering declines in earned revenue from canceling performances, closing museums, calling off tours, and shutting down art classes,” the report stated.

Some initiatives have begun to bolster New York’s art world. One $75 million collaborative philanthropic fund is available to arts and cultural organizations in New York. Even so, many fear that philanthropic and government funding will fall by the wayside as the COVID-19-driven economic crisis continues to worsen.

NYN Media reporter Kay Dervesh
Kay Dervishi
is a staff reporter at NYN Media.
20200527