The toll on Miami’s arts organizations due to COVID-19 pandemic


Andres Viglucci (Miami Herald) provides “A grim report details the toll on Miami-Dade cultural groups from the virus pandemic.”

The lockdown prompted by the coronavirus pandemic has dealt Miami-Dade’s arts and culture organizations a nearly $23 million blow and forced the loss of 1,700 jobs to date, the county’s cultural affairs department said in a new report.

The not-unexpected though still grim figures come from 201 cultural groups that responded to a survey by the county office, a principal funder of local arts activity. The survey, which covers just the month of March, is designed to quantify the revenue losses from the closure of museums and other cultural venues and the cancellation of performances and fundraising events.

Cultural affairs director Michael Spring said the county will conduct the survey on a monthly basis to generate solid data on the pandemic’s impact on the arts and guide decisions on how to assist cultural groups. The April survey will launch next week, he said.

The economic shutdown has battered artists and performers and the scores of nonprofit organizations and institutions that make up the county’s burgeoning cultural industry, which generated an estimated $1.5 billion in annual economic activity and provided work to about 44,000 people before the pandemic struck. Many of those artists and cultural workers eke out a living with little economic cushion.

Among the largest organizations, both the Frost Museum of Science and the Pérez Art Museum Miami have reported furloughing or laying off staff. PAMM director Franklin Sirmans said last week the museum had laid off 15 full-time workers, furloughed 54 part-timers and instituted salary cuts for the remaining 49 employees. Sirmans said salaries account for about 43% of the county-supported museum’s annual $15 million budget, but there has been no revenue coming in since PAMM was forced to shut its doors March 16. Sirmans hopes to reopen Sept. 1.

“The financial and jobs impact documented by this data demonstrates the enormous and traumatic effect that this public health crisis is continuing to have on the operations of arts and cultural organizations and the lives of cultural workers,” Spring wrote in a statement summarizing the survey results.

“These ‘numerical’ losses are deepened by the loss of that essential connection that we share of coming together to experience and celebrate dance, music, theater, the visual arts, the sciences, history and other cultural expressions. In these uncertain times, as we remain safer at home for an indeterminate amount of time, the resulting sense of isolation is a loss that can feel immeasurable.”

April’s survey asks arts groups whether they have applied for or received assistance from the federal government under various relief programs, Spring said.

[Photo above: Schoolkids during a tour of the Pérez Art Museum Miami in 2019. PAMM.ORG]


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