Our doors are closed but our hearts remain open
2019 was an historic year for us. Thanks to community and leadership support, we marked our 50th anniversary by launching free admission in March 2019, alongside our OPEN HOUSE platform. We designed OPEN HOUSE to enhance engagement and advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA). Expressed through staffing, governance, visitor experience, communications, and community programming, these enhancements yielded quick and powerful impact, growing attendance, and inspiring exceptional critical review and outstanding community feedback.
This momentum continued through 2020’s first quarter. However, in mid-March, moCa joined its peers in closing its doors temporarily during the most vulnerable weeks of the Coronavirus pandemic. These mandatory closures have been particularly impactful for small businesses and non-profits like us. moCa anticipates reopening to the public in early summer (July), with necessary changes to our space and program based on physical distancing requirements. We will continue our current season and the exhibitions that were truncated due to the museum closure. We remain committed to serving diverse audiences, and have expanded and enhanced our digital engagement platforms in order to provide virtual activities and experiences that convene and connect through art. Right now, we are using the slogan “our doors may be closed but our hearts are open” to extend the OPEN HOUSE values into this new realm while we are closed. Shared through various social media platforms, these offerings vary daily and include:
- “15 Minutes of…” and “At Home Studio Visits,” supporting locally- and Midwest-based artists in creating and discussing new and recent work with online audiences
- online “open projector nights,” sharing new and in-progress work by emerging to established local filmmakers and video artists
- “moCa Create,” family-oriented videos and prompts that guide handmade activities using familiar, everyday objects in the home
- “moCa Connect,” staff-generated videos highlighting activities, artists, and collections that inspire them
- “moCa Conversation” artist talks, community conversations, and “slow looking” sessions that explore art, culture, and relevant community issues
- virtual “watch parties” for film and performance
Early response to these digital offerings has been overwhelmingly positive, with hundreds to thousands of participants (local and streaming from across the globe), and meaningful feedback (e.g. “this is just what I needed”).
We also are working with valued community partners to serve vulnerable communities and contribute to urgent social needs, including sourcing and delivering art supplies and creative prompts to communities without reliable internet access, supporting voter registration, activation, and census completion, and advocating for arts, culture, and education on the state and federal level.
moCa, like all cultural organizations, was thrust into financial insecurity as a result of the pandemic. Most significantly, we canceled our April Gala, our annual fundraiser which raises more than $400,000 for our general operations. During our closure, we also sustained losses in earned income (e.g. event ticketing, space rental, and store sales). Pivoting quickly, we have tightened our belt and cut our expenses significantly while avoiding staff layoffs or furloughs while we are closed to the public. Finally, moCa received a Payment Protection Program forgivable loan through the CARES Act. These proactive measures coupled with a few extraordinary contributed income gifts will allow us to conclude the 2020 fiscal year (ending July 31, 2020) with only a negligible deficit (less than 1%).
Next fiscal year promises new challenges and opportunities. Though we expect to re-open this summer, based on reduced days open, physical distancing, and building capacity requirements, we know that in-gallery audiences—and the income opportunities they promise—will decline significantly. Industry projections suggest we will maintain just 50% of last year’s onsite attendance (projecting 20,000 – 25,000). We envision a new approach to supporting onsite audiences that integrates physical distancing protocols, no-touch education strategies, and other health protective measures. We will balance these methods with continued, robust virtual programs and delivery-based engagement activities for people of all ages, creating rich content and resources they can access at home or remotely.
In fiscal year 2021, we expect to frame our work using three core ideas: safety, solvency, and service. In terms of safety, we are simultaneously planning for new measures in our offices and our public spaces that will protect staff and visitors alike. moCa leadership is part of a Cleveland Museum Directors consortium that meets weekly to share research and experiences; members are working together to design consistent protocols for reopening that can help our audiences more quickly acclimate across museum experiences in our city. In terms of solvency, the efforts outlined above by our management team and board will allow us to weather the financial challenges ahead, as well as set new courses for a stronger organization when the crisis finally ends. Finally, service is not a new term to moCa, but the societal costs of this pandemic have further turned our attention to our value and responsibility in using our resources to better support the social, emotional, and economic needs of our vulnerable communities, such as artists and residents in our nearby neighborhoods. Equity and accessibility continue to be key drivers in our approach to service.
The arts play an essential role in times of celebration and challenge. Serving community and supporting artists has never been more important. Though we are prepared for challenges, we believe that 2021—which will cultivate a hybrid of onsite and digital offerings—will reinforce our ability to adapt, to support, to innovate, and to enrich through art and education. We ask you to consider a gift or grant in support of our continued work and join us as a partner as we continue to serve our community through digital and in-gallery programs that connect the art and ideas of our time and inspire, enrich, and uplift our audiences locally and across the globe.