The Impact of COVID-19 on VBMA

April, 27, 2020
The coronavirus has had a sudden and deep impact on society across the country, and around the world. We thank you all for your patience and goodwill as we adapt to this new environment. The Vero Beach Museum of Art is currently closed through June 1, and will probably open later than that. Our re-opening date will be determined by our ability to keep our visitors and staff safe during this health crisis. We are learning from others around the world as societies begin to re-open, and we will communicate our plans and an opening date in the weeks ahead.

Our actions to date, and moving forward, reflect three imperatives:

  1. Maintaining collections and a secure museum facility
  2. Keeping our staff strong and visitors safe
  3. Continuing to provide great art experiences and powerful community engagement

To date, we have taken significant action. Prior to closing the Museum on March 14, we were projecting a budget surplus for the fiscal year ending June 30. With the revenue loss after closing, we now anticipate finishing the fiscal year balanced. We see two challenging fiscal years ahead, and we have made major cuts to the budget, reducing expenses in exhibitions, marketing, programs, and capital expenditures. Travel and other discretionary expenses have been canceled or deferred. Additionally, after careful review, we eliminated several staff positions, the senior managers and director took pay cuts, and we have put a pay freeze in place. We were fortunate to receive a loan from the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program allowing us to put all of our furloughed employees back on the payroll, including our Museum Art School spring instructors. We will continue to look for efficiencies while keeping our three imperatives top of mind.

Some may wonder why we don’t just dip into the endowment to support us during this downturn. The endowment is highly restricted and the majority of it is dedicated by donors for specific purposes. We cannot legally use restricted funds for another purpose just to cover a shortfall. Endowment distributions will help us through the crisis, but there are limitations to its capacity and we will manage the endowment responsibly. This endowment has been built over the 30 plus year history of the Museum, and we hold it in trust for the current and future generations.

During closure, our staff has worked creatively from remote locations to produce some wonderful content for our virtual visitors. Museum Extras provides a wealth of inspiring educational content. From curated exhibition tours and art tutorials to compelling film classes and program content for children of all ages and abilities, Museum Extras has added new learning experiences for our audiences. We have continued to maintain close connectivity to our community partners with virtual content replacing classes for our A+ART students, who are teens and young adults on the Autism Spectrum. More recently we are exploring ways to offer virtual movement classes to our Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s audience. Since the launch, we have experienced a 74% increase in new users on the website.

We all need art in our lives, especially during times like this. Art elevates us and lets us share and celebrate our creativity and common humanity. In Vero Beach we are very fortunate to have a community that supports culture and the natural beauty of this remarkable place. We will all work through this period of disruption and the Museum will re-open as soon as we safely can. There will be challenges and we will not be perfect, but we will work through the problems and be prepared for the better days that lie ahead.