Cleveland Museum of Art Just Laid Off 10% of its Staff

click to enlarge HOWARD AGRIESTI, COURTESY OF THE CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART
Howard Agriesti, courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art
In a letter to donors and members last week, Cleveland Museum of Art Director William Griswold announced that the museum had furloughed or laid off roughly 10 percent of its staff, due to ongoing financial challenges posed by the pandemic. The cuts were reportedly across all departments. Staff members were informed by email Friday.

Griswold said in the donor letter that despite CARES act dollars and a recent fundraising campaign among trustees, the museum was still projecting a $6.2 million budget shortfall by year's end. The decision to reduce staff was made "reluctantly," he said, and only after other strategies to address the dramatic decrease in "earned and contributed revenue" in 2020.

Early in the pandemic, the museum instituted a hiring freeze, reduced executive compensation, suspended pay raises and redirected funds "to the direct care of the museum’s collection." The staff cuts were framed as a painful last resort.

"I cannot but commend the dedication of our staff throughout this difficult period," Griswold wrote. "That such workforce reductions were unavoidable, notwithstanding all the other cost-saving and revenue-generating steps that we had enacted, is a measure of the profound impact of the pandemic and recession on arts organizations of all types and sizes." 

The Cleveland Museum of Art now joins other arts-and-culture organizations in Northeast Ohio that have cut staff during the pandemic. Last month, Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, the organization that disburses cigarette tax revenue to local arts nonprofits, reported that from March to June, the 65 organizations that receive operating support from CAC laid off, furloughed or reduced hours for 2,533 employees and contractors, roughly 30 percent of the organizations' total workforce.

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About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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