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Tampa Bay’s museums talk PPP loans, furloughs and plans to reopen

The Dali Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts are among the local museums that received government loans.

Tampa Bay museums have reacted to the statewide coronavirus shutdown and subsequent reopening in various ways. As we reported last week, despite museums being included in phase one of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to reopen Florida, many local ones are still closed.

But some have laid out plans for opening their doors. As of Thursday, the Imagine Museum and the St. Petersburg Museum of History revealed plans to reopen. The Dalí Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts said they would remain closed. (Other museums contacted did not respond in time for publication.)

Even at museums that are choosing to remain closed to the public for now, museum staff continues to work from home or in the museum. That includes employees in security and maintenance, plus archivists, registrars and curators, who can distance while using museum resources.

Related: Most Tampa Bay museums will remain closed, for now.

Here’s an update on the local museum scene.

The Dalí Museum

St. Petersburg’s Dalí Museum confirmed that they have received a Paycheck Protection Program loan, but would not disclose the amount.

The museum’s 89 employees have all kept their jobs.

“The Dali’s primary support comes from visitors and has been significantly impacted during closure,” the museum said in an email.

The museum also said it was adhering to executive director Hank Hine’s emailed statement from last week that said their leadership team and board are working on new strategies for adjustment and will announce a reopening plan, once they’ve “measured all of the financial, health and staff implications."

Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg

Blue light illuminates exterior hallways at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in downtown St. Petersburg. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]

In an emailed statement, the museum said it also received a PPP loan for an undisclosed amount in late April, which will enable their 29 full-time employees to receive insurance and paychecks for eight weeks.

They furloughed their part-time employees on April 11. Those employees had been paid for four weeks after the museum closed its doors on March 13.

The museum stated that no reopening date has been set, but the team is “thoughtfully preparing to open in the safest way possible for our visitors, volunteers, and staff.”

Imagine Museum

Take Mom to visit the Imagine Museum, and its gift shop filled with incredible glass art. [GABRIELLA ANGOTTI-JONES | Times (2018)]

The St. Petersburg museum dedicated to the studio glass movement was founded by local philanthropist and entrepreneur Trish Duggan. In an email, executive director Jane Buckman said the museum aims to reopen with a soft opening for their members May 9 and for the public May 16.

Buckman said they didn’t apply for a PPP loan or any other grants. They were forced to furlough 85 percent of their part-time staff, which was 11 employees. They will bring them back on an as-needed basis as they reopen. They laid off 33 percent of full-time staff, which was five employees whose jobs were “determined to be non-essential to our new reality of operation.”

Those new operations will now be limited to 10 full-time essential staff and two part-time. They plan to hire back their museum associates as ticket sales allow.

Buckman said among the measures they have taken to reopen are reduced hours, programmed sanitation cleanings, employ timed entry to ensure no more than 40 people per hour in the 34,000-square-foot space, labels on the ground to encourage social distancing, hand sanitizing stations and safety shields at all registers. They’ve also developed specialty tours limited to six people.

“Our belief is this will be our new normal for some time,” Buckman said. “Art is a necessary commodity to allow for reflection and peace. We hope our museum and the beauty in our collection will bring some relief to those who need encouragement and inspiration.”

The Ringling Museum

(Sarasota, FL.--01/15/07) The new wing of the Ringling Museum of Art will have a courtyard and an additional 20,000-square feet of exhibition space. [JAMES BORCHUCK | St. Petersburg Times]

The Ringling is the state art museum of Florida administered by Florida State University. It said it did not get a PPP loan.

They said they have maintained all full-time employees including grounds, facilities and security workers who have continued to work on-site. The Ringling are anticipating to reach a decision about reopening by the end of next week.

St. Petersburg Museum of History

An image from 2018, when the St. Petersburg Museum of History was still open in the midst of the pier construction. The museum has been closed during the shutdown, but has plans to reopen. [Tampa Bay Times]

Even before having to close, the museum had been obscured by the construction of the St. Petersburg pier, so they budgeted to operate at a loss, said executive director Rui Farias. But they applied for a PPP loan and recently received word they will receive enough money to cover payroll for 10 full-time employees for eight weeks. They have not had to lay off or furlough any employees.

Farias said they’re aiming to reopen later this month but are implementing major changes, including refitting the restrooms with motion sensor faucets, soap and paper towel dispensers; a touchless payment system; hand sanitizing stations; automatic doors; and path signage to ensure 6-foot distancing.

Farias also said he has to change the configuration of the museum, to provide enough room between exhibits and take into consideration how much time people spend reading informational panels.

“I think this is going to change the way people look at building museum exhibits,” he said.

The Tampa Bay Times and its related companies received an $8.5 million PPP loan in April.

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