LACMA To Reopen In July, Thanks To A $6.7M PPP Loan

LACMA is planning to reopen in July. The building to the right of Chris Burden's "Urban Light" installation has been demolished to make room for a new museum campus. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

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The pandemic has forced some leading cultural institutions — such as the Center Theatre Group and the Los Angeles Philharmonic — to cancel entire seasons and lay off or furlough scores of employees.

But the Los Angeles County Museum of Art says it will reopen next month with its entire staff intact, thanks to a substantial government loan.

LACMA, which receives about 40% of its operating budget from the County of Los Angeles, secured a $6.7 million loan from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. The loan expires at the end of June, meaning that the museum, like other recipients of PPP lending, would then be free to reduce staffing and still have the loan forgiven, as long as certain terms are met.

But Michael Govan, LACMA's director, said there are no plans to trim the workforce anytime soon, meaning the museum has the personnel in place not only to reopen, but also to plan future events and exhibitions. He said the PPP loan was instrumental in preventing cutbacks.

"We would have had to furlough or reduce staff," Govan said. "It's done exactly what it was intended to do — it's kept everybody working. We have a lot of [employees] who are young and have families to support."

The museum, which bills itself as "the largest art museum in the western United States," says its current fiscal year budget is about $79 million, with about $32 million coming from L.A. County. LACMA also receives taxpayer funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. The museum has 476 employees.


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Govan said the salaries of about 12 LACMA employees are provided by the county. The rest are covered by Museum Associates, the non-profit that operates LACMA. The federal PPP loan can only be used for those salaries not paid by the county.

A museum spokeswoman said no employees have had their salaries reduced.

LACMA is also nearing the end of a capital campaign to raise $650 million for a new building to replace several older buildings that are being demolished. L.A. County is contributing $125 million for the new building, which is scheduled to open in 2024.

Govan said the museum is aiming to unlock its gallery doors possibly as soon as July 6. Visitors will be required to follow a variety of safety and social-distance guidelines, and admissions will be limited and timed to avoid overcrowding. Some LACMA programs, such as outdoor jazz concerts, won't come back immediately, Govan said.

Museum guests will have to answer health questionnaires and follow proscribed traffic patterns in galleries with defined spacing, and use touchless technology for ticketing, according to Govan.

"We do have a lot of floor space and relatively open areas," he said. But he added that total attendance, even with limited admissions, could be below projections. "Who knows who wants to come to a museum?" he said.

Some shows that closed or were postponed when LACMA was shuttered on March 14, such as "Luchita Hurtado: I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn," and a retrospective from Japan's Yoshitomo Nara, will be extended.

Govan said cuts could be forthcoming during the museum's next fiscal year, which begins in July, especially if corporate-backed events don't return at their prior levels. Already, the museum is holding off on some expenditures, such as capital improvements outside of the new building.

He said LACMA was able to use what will be four months of shutdown to reevaluate the museum's operations and plan its reopening. Studio teachers were trained to produce online lessons.

Center Theatre Group, which also receives substantial support from L.A. County, last week said its three theaters would remain closed until April, 2021. CTG said the coronavirus has cost it as much as $40 million in lost revenue, prompting furloughs of 60% of its staff while slashing nearly two-thirds of the organization's budget.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic, which also receives county support, canceled the entire Hollywood Bowl season.