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The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco is among the recipients of the Mellon Foundation’s first round of emergency funding for museums (photo via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s no secret that museums have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, losing attendance income and fundraising dollars, cutting programming and staff, and incurring new expenses to produce digital content and implement safety measures. One statistic, released by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) this summer, was especially jarring: one-third of all cultural institutions in the US may never reopen. Support from private and public sources, said AAM president Laura Lott, will become crucial to saving the field.

This week, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has stepped in with a new emergency fund launched to help art organizations stay afloat. The first round of the Art Museum Futures Fund will distribute nearly $24 million to 12 mid-sized institutions across the nation. The Brooklyn Museum, El Museo del Barrio, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the Pérez Art Museum are among the grantees, which will receive awards ranging from $600,000 to $5.5 million. 

“Despite relatively small budgets, lean staffs, and minimal endowments, these institutions often punch above their weight,” Mellon Foundation’s program officer Deborah Cullen-Morales said in a statement. “These institutions care for diverse and distinctive art collections. We are committed to lifting this work.”

The foundation’s statement adds that mid-sized museums are particularly vulnerable to financial insolvency, holding less than two months’ working capital on average before the crisis. Nevertheless, they often play a pivotal role in serving their communities.

In early fall, the foundation will issue additional awards of up to $3 million as part of the fund, this time focusing on small art museums. The aid can be used toward resiliency planning and expenses related to pandemic response, operating costs, and critical staff and infrastructure. 

The complete list of museums included in the Art Museum Futures Fund’s first round of grantmaking is as follows: the Asian Art Museum (San Francisco, CA), Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn, NY), El Museo del Barrio (Manhattan, NY), Institute of Contemporary Art (Boston, MA), McNay Art Museum (San Antonio, TX), Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago, IL), Nevada Museum of Art (Reno, NV), Oakland Museum of California, (Oakland, CA), Pérez Art Museum (Miami, FL), Philbrook Museum of Art (Tulsa, OK), Queens Museum (Queens, NY), and the Studio Museum in Harlem (Manhattan, NY).

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Valentina Di Liscia

Valentina Di Liscia is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...