Center for an Urban Future Study Finds NYC's Small Arts Groups Facing Unprecedented Financial Challenges

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Center for an Urban Future Study Finds NYC's Small Arts Groups Facing Unprecedented Financial Challenges

A new report published today by the Center for an Urban Future finds that small and mid-sized arts organizations across New York City are facing unprecedented financial challenges, with many independent theatres, nightclubs, galleries, museums, and performance venues teetering on the brink of insolvency. Although larger cultural institutions are also facing stunning losses, the study finds that many smaller cultural groups don't have the benefit of endowments or large donor bases to help cushion the blow as they experience staggering declines in earned revenue from cancelling performances, closing museums, calling off tours, and shutting down arts classes.

The report, titled Art in the Time of Coronavirus: New York City's Small Arts Organizations Fighting for Survival, is based on interviews with the leaders of two dozen arts organizations across all five boroughs, including the Tenement Museum, Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Flushing Town Hall, BAAD! Bronx Academy of Art and Dance, and the Staten Island Children's Museum; independent music promoters like AdHoc Presents and theater companies including Black Spectrum and Keen Company; and directly from dancers, playwrights, and visual and performing artists whose lives and careers have been upended.

Among the findings:

Many of NYC's small and mid-sized arts organizations are heavily reliant on earned revenue, but social distancing threatens to all but eliminate that crucial source of income.

75 percent of the Tenement Museum's $11.5 million annual operating budget is generated from earned income, which puts the organization at grave risk.

Roughly 70 percent of the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music's FY 2020 budget-$3.3 million out of $4.7 million-comes from earned revenue.

More than 40 percent of the $220,000 the budget for the nonprofit Bangladesh Institute of Performing Arts (BIPA) comes from revenue raised from its classes teaching Bangla music and dance.

Small and mid-sized arts organizations project steep revenue losses-from 17 percent to 50 percent or more of their annual operating budgets.

The Staten Island Children's Museum projects $630,000 in lost income-nearly 30 percent of the museum's $2.2 million annual operating budget.

Brooklyn-based Beth Morrison Projects expects a $800,000 loss in gross income from performance and tour fees, over a quarter of its $3 million operating budget, after being forced to cancel eight tour engagements and two workshops.

The Nuyorican Poets Café expects to lose almost half of its annual revenue-a loss of $302,000--if it remains closed through July.

Flushing Town Hall projects losses of $400,000 in earned income through June-over 17 percent of its annual budget.

Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning faces a revenue shortfall of $225,000 due to lost revenue from rental, registration, tuition, box office, program services, and corporate support.

The CANVAS Institute on Staten Island has had to cancel four exhibitions and all rentals and has already lost $25,000 to $30,000-almost a third of its annual operating budget, which averages just over $100,000.

Brooklyn-based theater company Parallel Exit is on pace to lose a third of its revenue if its doors are shut until just mid-April-$25,000 in revenue on a $75,000 budget.

BAAD! Bronx Academy of Art and Dance has been forced to cancel 18 shows planned over the next three months.

With little cash on hand and few if any reserves, many small and mid-sized arts organizations have had to lay off or furlough staff.

Prior to the pandemic, the Tenement Museum employed 67 full-time staff and 75 part-time workers. But now all part-time workers have been let go, and the full-time staff is down to 51 people, of which only 15 remain on payroll (and most of those are working just every other week).

With a $2.3 million budget, Flushing Town Hall has only about $40,000 cash on hand-less than 2 percent-and no endowment. It lacks the cash to continue paying teaching artists and will not be able to make payroll if its city contracts are canceled or scaled back.

All of the 60 employees at Nowadays, an indoor/outdoor nightlife venue on the Ridgewood/Bushwick border-including contractors and part-time workers such as security guards and sound technicians-are no longer being paid.

Black Spectrum Theater Company had to stop paying staff after March.

AdHoc Presents, a leading promoter of independent live music, has had to trim its staff from seven to four now that all concerts are canceled.

Beth Morrison Projects was forced to eliminate two positions from a staff of nine.

Working artists have lost up to one-third of their annual income and face months of canceled projects and likely unemployment.

Hussein Smko spent two years creating an autobiographical dance work titled Project-TAG, but the premiere has now been canceled. A future tour of Kurdistan has also been canceled and he lost a potential $40,000 grant and had to cancel a fundraiser, both due to the pandemic.

Experimental composer, performer, and sound designer Lea Bertucci was scheduled to tour across Europe and Australia this spring. Instead, after only four of her 22 performances in Europe, she was forced to buy a plane ticket home to Queens. "Now the bulk of my income has been completely decimated," she says. She's lost 25 performances amounting to $15,000- a roughly 33 percent loss to her annual income.

Click the link to read the full report, titled Art in the Time of Coronavirus: New York City's Small Arts Organizations Fighting for Survival.


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