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News / April 9, 2020

News Roundup: Layoffs Continue at Canadian Museums, Galleries and Arts Organizations

Royal Ontario Museum lays off half its staff, and National Music Centre lays off 80 per cent—but Arts Commons says it’s keeping all salaried staff on board
The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Photo: City of Toronto. Used under a Creative Commons License. The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Photo: City of Toronto. Used under a Creative Commons License.

Museum and culture-sector institutions announce staff layoffs due to COVID-19 pressures. The Royal Ontario Museum—one of the most highly attended museums in Canada—is laying off half its full-time staff and reducing the remaining staff’s hours. In Alberta, where the National Music Centre has laid off 80 per cent of staff, stress on the arts sector is being exacerbated by cuts in early March via the provincial government’s budget. (Globe and Mail, Globe and Mail, Global News)

Calgary’s Arts Commons, however, is going public about keeping all salaried staff on board. On April 3, Arts Commons announced a decision “to keep all salaried employees fully employed until June 2020, leveraging the Federal Government’s unprecedented 75% Wage Subsidy Program,” says a release. The organization is also using the federal government’s Supplemental Unemployment Benefit (SUB) program: “By fully utilizing both programs, Arts Commons is able to save 42% of budgeted labour costs, while keeping staff whole.” (Arts Commons)

Artists and advocates call for better access to Canada’s emergency relief programs. On April 4, Canadian Artists Representation (CARFAC) published a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling on “the Federal Government to review and remove barriers to artists who require access to key Emergency Relief programs.” As of April 6, the Globe reports, many artists and other gig workers still remain shut out from benefits because they may continue to earn small amounts of money over a two-week period. (CARFAC, Globe and Mail)

Some cities launched their own artist-relief funds—and quickly found them overwhelmed. Calgary Arts Development’s $1.15-million COVID-19 short-term relief fund, announced on March 25, included $200,000 for artists for individual grants up to $1,500. Applications were to be ongoing until April 30 or until funds were depleted, but were closed April 8 due to “overwhelming demand greater than the funds available.” The Toronto Arts Council’s TOArtist COVID Response Fund, announced March 26 with more than $500,000 available to create individual artist grants up to $1,000, also saw “overwhelming demand” of more than 1,900 applications in just 10 days—as a result, new applications to this fund were suspended on April 4. (Calgary Arts Development, Toronto Arts Council)

Toronto and Montreal museums appoint director-level staff. Kathleen Bartels is the new executive director and CEO at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto. Bartels joins MOCA from the Vancouver Art Gallery, where she served as director for 18 years. Mélanie Deveault is the new director of education and wellness at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, where she was previously educational projects developer. (MOCA Toronto, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts)

Amid the crisis, remembrance. Recent losses in the Canadian arts sphere include Toronto artist John Brown (1953–2020), who died on March 21, and Spaniard’s Bay curator Walter Peddle (1939–2020), who died on March 18. Brown’s obituary states that “donations can be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.” Peddle’s states that he “passed peacefully away…age 81 years.” (Toronto Cremation Care CentreThe Rooms Facebook Page, ObitTree)

This post was corrected on April 15, 2020. The original post incorrectly referred to the National Music Centre as the Canadian Music Centre. In fact, they are two different and separate organizations.