For art museums around the world, the pandemic has meant lost revenues, closed galleries, and precarious futures. A study published in November by the American Alliance of Museums reported that 30 percent of museums nationwide haven’t opened their doors since March, and it’s widely feared that many will close for good. Locally, though, the news is less dire.

While the Nevada Museum of Art has postponed its Las Vegas expansion and suffered lost ticket and rental revenue, it also received a prestigious foundation grant and, via Zoom, expanded the reach of its educational programs. 

“We have pulled together like never before,” said Communications Director Amanda Horn during a phone call this week.

Here’s a look at some of the institution’s 2020 mile markers.

COVID closure

On March 16, the museum closed when Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve ordered businesses to shutter to help control the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Revenue from admission, events, and rental facilities such as the theater and the skyroom (normally booked for weddings most summer weekends) came to a screeching halt.

PPP relief

On April 7, the museum’s application for a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan was approved for $645,000. The funds were used to cover payroll, insurance, and retirement benefits during the first few months of the pandemic. As of this week, Horn said, there have been no furloughs or layoffs.

Statewide education programs

Monthly Educator Evenings, which offer in-service credits to teachers, were previously limited by geography. On May 5, they went virtual. Attendance has increased from around 100 to 200 teachers per session, including many from Clark, Nye, Elko, and White Pine Counties. Field trips for classroom groups have also gone online. Kids and teachers now visit the museum via Zoom instead of school bus.

Reopening

On June 18, the museum reopened to visitors with hand sanitizing stations, plexiglass dividers at the front desk, and appointments required to keep capacity limited to to 25 percent. Phase 1 of reopening is still in place, and capacity is still 25 percent. Events such as the monthly First Thursday party and Friday-afternoon Art Bite talks have migrated to the museum’s YouTube channel.

Las Vegas branch on hold, $4 million returned to state

On Aug. 4, museum trustees voted to suspend the plan for a Las Vegas branch and reevaluate the plan’s viability in two years. CEO David Walker announced in a letter to Gov. Steve Sisolak that the museum would return $4 million of the $5 million in state funding that had been allocated for a Las Vegas museum via a 2019 state senate bill. Walker mentioned in the letter that some museum programs in Las Vegas would remain in place or on the drawing board, such as STEAM education for the Clark County School District.

Foundation funding

On Sept. 17, the Nevada Museum of Art received a $750,000 grant from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Art Museum Futures Fund. The fund distributed $24 million altogether in emergency grants to help 11 mid-sized museums get through the pandemic.

World Stage exhibition extended

This group exhibition puts American artists of color in conversation with mid-20th-century heavy hitters like Rauschenberg and Warhol. (Here’s Double Scoop reviewer Brent Holmes’ take.) It was originally scheduled to be on display for 10 weeks, but for all except two days of that stretch, the museum was closed. The exhibition’s end date was moved from May 24 until Feb. 7.

In addition to giving the public more time to see the show, the time extension also beings a modicum of financial relief. Because the artworks are all on loan from a single collector, overhead expenses such as shipping are greatly reduced, making this show a relative bargain compared to exhibitions like the upcoming Victorian Radicals, which travels from the UK and opens March 7.

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Posted by Kris Vagner

Kris Vagner is Double Scoop’s Editor & Publisher. She's also been a literature student in Arizona, an art student in Boston and Los Angeles, an artist, gallery owner, art teacher, and Arts Editor for the Reno News & Review. More at www.krisvagner.com.

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