YBCA Cuts a Third of its Staff

The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is the latest Bay Area art institution to resort to shutdown-related layoffs.

The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts announced yesterday that it is eliminating 27 staff positions, over a third of its total staff, due to the significant financial impact caused by the coronavirus shutdown.

For the past three months, YBCA’s payroll expenses have been supported by a $1.5 million Paycheck Protection Program loan. Those funds have now run out.

The YBCA saw a $3.5 million decrease in gross revenue in the 2019–20 fiscal year. In addition, for the 2020–21 fiscal year, the YBCA is projecting a loss of $6.8 million in gross revenue from its rental program, annual fundraisers and anticipated funding reductions from the Yerba Buena Gardens Conservancy.

YBCA has been closed to the public since March, when the city’s shelter-in-place order began. In the public letter announcing the staffing cuts, YBCA CEO Deborah Cullinan wrote that the eliminated positions are “tied to live events and activities which are not operational for the foreseeable future.”

The YBCA is one of several Bay Area art institutions facing financial difficulties because of the ongoing shutdown. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, just a stone’s throw away from the YBCA, has already laid off over 180 employees and it is projecting an $18 million deficit for 2021. The MoMA is also currently facing additional turmoil following accusations of racism within the institution.

Just last week, the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, which includes the de Young and Legion of Honor, announced lay-offs for 14 staff members and furloughs for 33 others. The FAMSF has projected a $20 million loss in revenue.

Top officials at both FAMSF and YBCA will take significant pay cuts, and all remaining YBCA staff will see pay reductions. YBCA staff members who have been laid off will be paid through the end of July and will be considered as priority candidates for future job openings at the center.

Outside of San Francisco, museums around the country have been deeply impacted by the implications of the pandemic. Over 1,350 employees were laid off at 17 museums around the nation in the month of June alone, according to an estimate done by Artnet News.

Moving forward, the YBCA plans to continue supporting Bay Area artists through the Artist Power Center, a resource set up to serve artists and cultural workers. YBCA’s website is currently collecting donations that will be split between the Artist Power Center and the Artist Now grants supporting artists in the Bay Area who are people of color, women and those who identify as LGBTQIA+.

Hannah Holzer is an intern covering news and culture.

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