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Portland Art Museum facing big layoffs

Stung by coronavirus-shutdown losses, the museum will make deep staff cuts next week.

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LAYOFFS ARE COMING SOON TO THE PORTLAND ART MUSEUM, Director Brian Ferriso informed the staff in a memo on Friday. The museum is closed for the foreseeable future because of the pandemic, and income has dropped sharply. What this means for the $100 million capital campaign to build the Rothko Pavilion between the museum’s two main buildings is not yet clear. The museum expects to make a more complete announcement next week.

The museum’s Belluschi Building. Photo courtesy Portland Art Museum

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Here is Ferriso’s Friday memo:

Dear Museum and (Northwest Film Center) staff,

I hope this email finds you safe and adjusting to being at home. I know this is a difficult and uncertain time, and I want to continue providing you updates about our status and future plans.

As I have shared previously, maintaining staff and operations, even during this closure, costs about $1 million a month. This situation is not sustainable beyond April 15, and our cash flow cannot support it.

Today, it is becoming more evident that all pathways forward include deep staff reductions. To that end, we are working to identify direct assistance and other support tools that may be available for staff and families. This information changes daily based on new legislation and other developments in the state and federal pandemic response, but we expect to have clarity around those questions sometime next week and are consulting with outside counsel to ensure that we are doing it right.

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We will be in touch individually with those of you whose jobs are affected, and we will provide information about next steps and resources.

Today’s news is difficult to share, and I know it is difficult news to receive. Thank you for your patience and trust as we work to protect the future of the Museum and Film Center. We will have more to share next week.

Sincerely,

Brian

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Bob Hicks has been covering arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest since 1978, including 25 years at The Oregonian. Among his art books are Kazuyuki Ohtsu; James B. Thompson: Fragments in Time; and Beth Van Hoesen: Fauna and Flora. His work has appeared in American Theatre, Biblio, Professional Artist, Northwest Passage, Art Scatter, and elsewhere. He also writes the daily art-history series "Today I Am."

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