What was once criticized as a money-grab by the Metropolitan Museum of Art is now being celebrated as an ingenious method of buoying New York City’s network of smaller cultural institutions with cash.
City officials announced on Monday that $2.8 million it had received from the Met’s change in admissions policy would be redistributed to more than 175 cultural institutions across the five boroughs.
Beneficiaries of the unexpected windfall include El Museo del Barrio, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Bronx Museum of the Arts.
“This agreement with the Met has paid dividends for NYC’s cultural community,” the city’s cultural affairs commissioner, Tom Finkelpearl told the New York Times. He added that the arrangement was “stabilizing one of our city’s major institutions with increased admissions revenue, while providing a much-needed boost to organizations that anchor communities across the city.”
When the museum announced its plan to charge a $25 admissions fee for most out-of-state visitors back in 2018, the possibility of redistributing wealth around the city was not widely publicized. Instead, the city (which owns the Met building) said it would receive 30 percent of the museum’s increased admissions revenue, with a ceiling of $3 million and allowing adjustments for variations in attendance.
Museum officials said that the $2.8 million payment reflects $800,000 of increased revenue form the 2018 fiscal year, plus an estimate of $2 million for what will be generated in the 2019 fiscal year.
Between the fiscal years of 2017 and 2018, the museum saw a $5.4 million increase in total admission revenues from $42.8 million to $48.2 million due to four months of the new fee policy.
There are plans to eventually reduce the operating subsidy the Met receives from the Department of Cultural Affairs each year, which covers costs for security and building staff. The 2019 fiscal year has an operating subsidy of $11.9 million.
The Department of Cultural Affairs plans to split the $2.8 million between institutions in “high-need neighborhoods” and “underserved communities.” $1.4 million is earmarked for the former category, which includes Harlem Stage in Manhattan; Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens; and St. George Theater in Staten Island.
The other half will go to 16 organizations in the form of grants from $25,000 to $175,000 for 16 organizations including El Museo, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, and children’s museums in Brooklyn and Staten Island.