Layoffs Hit Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco

Museum of the African Diaspora has laid off seven employees and reduced the hours of its remaining 11 employees. (Courtesy Museum of the African Diaspora)

The Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) has laid off seven staff members and reduced the hours of its remaining 11 employees, KQED has learned.

Monetta White, director of the San Francisco art and history museum, announced the “incredibly difficult and painful decision to reduce staff” in an email to supporters Monday. “We have been forced to temporarily close our museum, impacting our already limited operating funds,” she said.

In the message, White also brought attention to MoAD's online programming, including events and a new podcast. “We are dedicated to remaining as accessible as possible to you,” White said.

Mark Sabb, communications and marketing director, confirmed the layoffs and hours reductions, which were announced internally on Friday, Mar. 20.

MoAD, like virtually all local museums and performing arts venues, is closed to the public for the foreseeable future in accordance with regional and statewide shelter-in-place orders to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. The closures jeopardize thousands of jobs in the arts sector.

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News of MoAD's cutbacks follows more than 300 layoffs or furloughs of workers at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. SFMOMA expects to lose $8 million through June.

A survey by the San Francisco Arts Alliance found 28 percent of the city’s arts organizations were contemplating layoffs as of March 20. Most have reduced or suspended contractor hours.

The 145 arts groups that responded to the survey anticipate losing as much as $73 million in earned income and donations if the coronavirus crisis proceeds through mid-September.

A survey conducted by the California Arts Council and released this week paints a similarly dire picture for arts groups statewide. The average estimated revenue loss of 3,049 respondent organizations for the period between Tuesday, Mar. 17 and Thursday, Mar. 26 is $193,642.

The $2 trillion federal aid package signed into law on Friday includes $7.5 million for the Smithsonian Institution. Despite being a Smithsonian affiliate, Sabb said he doesn’t know if MoAD will receive funds from that portion of the package. White, MoAD's director, is meeting with Smithsonian officials this week.

The aid package also includes $75 million each for the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities.