Summary

Challenges

One of the biggest challenges for art museums today is the coronavirus pandemic. The virus has affected so many organizations around the globe, including preventing arts organizations from opening during these uncertain times. Many art museums were forced to close, leaving them with unstable revenue channels.

How have specific art museums adapted to the pandemic?

  • Allentown Art Museum: One of the most affected aspects of art museums is programming. Due to health and safety guidelines, many museums aren’t able to have in-person programming. At the Allentown Art Museum, visitors are hesitant to come in, even when the museum reopened, so outside programming and virtual programming are the best solutions. Many programs such as Art Ventures, a free Sunday activity at the museum, were moved to an outdoor setting in the summer months. Other programs needed more creative ways to connect and engage visitors. The Youth and Family Art Ways Gallery created an art bar where young artists can order art supplies to take home instead of sharing art supplies in a common space. For the online presence, the biggest challenge is holding the viewers’ attention. New online programming is now 20-30 minutes long. In the coming Winter months, the Allentown Art Museum is looking to hold virtual tours and virtual field trips for local students.
  • Woodmere Art Museum: Another challenge for museums has been having to adapt on an operational level. The Woodmere Art Museum was closed for 4 ½ months, which affected operations. Although the museum doesn’t pay rent because the museum owns the building they operate in, the buildings and grounds department still had to come into work in-person to take care of the $18 million of artwork within the facility. The temperature and humidity had to be controlled to preserve the artwork. Once reopening to the public, the office administration team couldn’t handle the amount of work needing to be done, so a COVID officer position was created to mitigate tasks and be safe around the museum. More guest services employees also had to be hired to operate efficiently when other employees need to quarantine from possible exposure to the virus.
  • Museum of Art and Design: Due to closures, the Museum of Art and Design, along with many other museums had a loss of revenue because there was no longer admission or income from restaurants and retail shops. This allowed the museum to be creative and make money in new ways. The MAD launched new virtual programs to cultivate new members, along with bringing in two new trustees to increase contributions. Although this pandemic is not ideal, it allowed many museums to pivot to a digital platform and stay in this innovative space.

Opportunities

Although art museums have faced many challenges throughout the past year, there have also been many opportunities for art museums to expand and create a better experience for their visitors such as expanding diversity, equity, and inclusion roles within the organization.

  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Creating a more inclusive environment for visitors has been the main priority for museums recently. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City announced their first Chief Diversity Officer, Lavita McMath Turner. The Met received a message urging the organization to create a more inclusive culture within the museum, so this position is a first step in the path towards a better community. The museum faced over $150 million in revenue loss due to the pandemic but still was able to prioritize this position showing dedication and commitment to its diversity initiative. Other organizations showing similar progress is the Guggenheim Museum with a two-year diversity plan to address accusations of racism within their leadership, and The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art creating a diversity initiative to be released soon.

Conclusion

Art museums are a struggling industry right now due to the pandemic getting more serious every day, however, this leaves a lot of opportunities for art museums to use the resources they already have and build a stronger community through a virtual platform. I believe art museums can succeed with the right structure, operational plan, fundraising plan, and programming efforts. These are key elements to keep the museums running smoothly during closures. Although every museum is run differently based on the size and location of the organization, every museum shares a common goal of providing the best experience and educational opportunities to its visitors, which is very important to keep in mind as the pandemic continues. The future is bright for art museums if the leaders are strategic. For further exploration, I would like to research the most successful strategic plans of art museums affected by the pandemic. This relates to my individual study research on adaptation. I look forward to applying the knowledge from this course to my research.

References:

Small, Zachary. “Met Museum Appoints Chief Diversity Officer.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 Nov. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/11/23/arts/design/met-museum-diversity-officer.html.

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