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Museum of Fine Arts furloughs 340, will keep doors shut until at least June 30

Greg Cook reports.

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That certainly puts the MF into MFA.

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If your income is 0$ and you have expenses of X$ how long do you think you can keep paying out X$ -- you have some absolute irreducible expenses Y [heat / cooling] and security some lights -- so you cut X back to x by furloughing some people -- who they will hire back when the people and $ start returning

It's not like the Smithsonian where the US Taxpayer picks up the tab

and by the way the recent COVID-19 combined with Russia - Saudi Tussle in oil has driven down the value of the MFA's endowment and also the plunge in interest rates has driven down the return on the endowment

Of course if you want to write a check to keep the 340 people with their benefits on the payroll go right ahead

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I'm in no position to fault the MFA and I trust they are doing what they think needs to be done.

But that said, they are the premier Art institution of New England and one of the most prominent fine art institutions in America and the world. So for this reason it's surprising (as an outsider) that they are so quick to announce these large scale layoffs. One would assume they'd have more resources to at least delay these announcements until there's more clarity in regards to the pandemic aftermath.

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Employees get unemployment. The MFA tours tended to be large groups of school children and they're not coming anymore until this is over.

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Even if unemployment (or unemployment + MFA support) completely replaced lost wages, employees are still behind the eight ball if their expenses increase - such as having to pay 100% health premium to Cobra if they currently pay some sort of split.

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Per the linked article.
Hopefully that means the MFA will continue to pay what they da been paying towards health care.

Also there may be a distinction between furloughed vs. laid off employees regarding COBRA.

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I was just expressing general disappointment that nobody will be able to visit the museum. Sheesh. What are you, Bill Cosby with the Monopoly money?

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Nonprofits and businesses will lay people off who are eligible for the beefed-up unemployment benefits under the CARES Act, and (in some cases) will pay them the difference between the benefit and their former salary/wages and keep benefits in place. That's what MFA appears to be doing.

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Is it legal to lay a person off [to collect UI] but then pay them anyway?

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I don't know legally but it seems pretty common that a person gets laid off and gets one or more weeks of severance but are also able to file immediately for unemployment benefits.

I think that's what happened last year when I was laid off. I was given 2 weeks severance (thanks, jerks) but was able to file for unemployment immediately.*

Is this the same?

*Prior to now you had to wait one week between getting laid off and being able to collect an unemployment check but that one week has been delayed, I believe.

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If someone is laid off with severance, yes they are able to file for unemployment. But they are required to do so with the effective date of when their severance runs out. So if they are let go on the 1st of the month with two weeks severance, they can file for unemployment on the 15th of that month.

The above is my understanding based on my own past experience as someone tangentially involved with HR. No idea how it is currently with circumstances as they are.

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Not sure if it's different in the current situation, but previously it depended on how the severance was paid out. If you got it in a lump payment, you could collect unemployment immediately (after a one week from filing gap). If you got it as a continuance where they paid you on a schedule, unemployment kicked in once they stop paying that.

Short version, file ASAP and the system will kick in based on your exact circumstances.

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First off, I’m suprised they have 340 employees, that seems like a lot. On second thought though, I guess they have a lot of people behind the scenes, teachers, etc. I’m also guessing they are funded like Harvard might be with large endowments in the 8 or 9 figure range.

Second, and not that they would ever do it, but for curiously sake, If the MFA had to auction off or sell one piece in the building, what would it be and what would be the most expensive piece of art in there?

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I hope they never get to that place @Pete Nice.
I don't visit often but each time I have I feel enlightend by the collection if that makes any sense? Whoever is making the choices of what's displayed has been doing a great job for decades.

Most valuable to me would be one of the John Singer Sargeant portraits.

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Just wondering what they could get for various prices. Likely that Copley painting with the daughters....or is that not even on the top 10?

Edit: I was thinking Copley did the one with the girls, that was Sargent of course. Copley’s portraits must be worth a lot too.

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I think your right.

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When items/collections are donated to museums they are usually done so with stipulation that the museum is now the custodian but can not sell the items for any/specific reasons.

Here's some articles on deaccessioning and what happens when museums try to sell:

https://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/03/arts/03iht-finkel.1.19031384.html

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/07/30/540429888/museums-pla...

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What's the least valuable piece of art relative to the expected sale price in there?

The Louvre could make a mint selling off the Mona Lisa, but how much in ticket sales would that cost them once people stop coming because they can't see the Mona Lisa? Hell, I went in 2015. You stand several rows deep to see the Mona Lisa, but there's no crowd at all for David (EDIT: Venus de Milo). I'll never understand that.

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Now that's a masterpiece. I'd love to actually see that. So do people just walk by Will?

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Because it's in a more unassuming museum in Florence Italy... highly recommend but... also go to Siena and San giamiano if you go to Tuscany!

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It’s in Florence.

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It's off the beaten path, but there's signage pointing you to it. That must have eluded most visitors, I stood directly at the rope surrounding the David sculpture.

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I'm an idiot. It's the Venus de Milo that I saw at the Louvre, not David, which is in Italy. I haven't seen David. And since I haven't seen the new season of Curb, now there's two Davids I need to see.

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is in the Accademia museum in Florence. There are a couple of outdoor replicas also in Florence.

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Homer: "We'll have to go to the Leonardo da Vinci museum."

Bart: "Dad, I think that's in Italy."

Homer: "Oh. Then we'll take it out on Eli Whitney."

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And THE largest museum in Boston. Of course they would have over 300 employees.

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Here's what the MFA actually says about their COVID-19 Cost Containment [with my highlights in Bold]
COVID-19 Emergency Response

Due to the ongoing public health crisis, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, will remain closed through June 30, 2020. The MFA originally closed the evening of March 12, and has canceled all live public programs and internal special events through August 31. The exhibition and programming schedule is currently under evaluation and, when possible, an announcement will be made regarding the future calendar.

In order to offset the significant financial ramifications caused by the closure, the Museum will implement cost containment measures, utilize endowment funds to the extent possible, and furlough staff eligible for unemployment insurance and new government programs. All eligible employees will receive full health care benefits and there will be no layoffs at this time. See the press release for more details about the closure and staff furloughs.

So far from being Scrooge or Snidely Whiplash -- the MFA is actually doing the softest things possible with respect to their personnel who are not full-time management, salary or performing essential day to day functions.

PS: if you go to MFA.org there are quite a few things which you can access remotely related to MFA objects, projects, personnel, etc., -- including:

  1. ASL interpreted discussion of exhibits
  2. Music and musicians associated with the musical instruments collection
  3. Riley the Museum Dog
  4. and through Google a walking tour of quite a bit of the MFA
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