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Letter from Erika: Less Than or Yes, And: Why We Advocate

February 24, 2022 11:34 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

Dear Members, Supporters, Friends, and Advocates,

On Wednesday, February 16th, I had the honor of testifying at the New York State Legislature’s 2022 Joint Budget Hearing on Economic Development. I have testified at hearings called by the Assembly Standing Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts, and Sports Development, but this was my first time at an Economic Development Hearing. Although I only had three minutes to speak, with my comments, those of others giving testimony, and the questions asked of us, I am certain the word “museum” has never been said more frequently at a New York State Economic Development hearing.

We asked to speak out in that forum because even though most museums operate as nonprofits, they generate significant tax revenues for federal, state, and local governments. Every direct job at a museum supports an additional job in the economy. The most recent data available shows that museums have a financial impact on New York’s economy of $5.37 billion dollars and that more people visited an art museum, science center, historic house or site, zoo, or aquarium in 2018 than attended a professional sporting event.

My testimony included that New York’s museums reported losing half of their visitor attendance and 63% of K-12 school group visits in the past two years. At the end of 2021, museums had reduced open hours by a third and their staff by 12%.

New York’s museums are in desperate need of support to allow them to recover and reclaim their roles as economic drivers, community anchors, and tourist destinations.

MANY is advocating for funding for our state’s museums that can be distributed equitably regardless of discipline, budget size, or location. We are speaking out for changes to our funding systems to actively incorporate the work and voices of BIPOC and historically marginalized communities.

We have asked for funding to:

  • respond to the ways in which the pandemic forced changes in museum operations;
  • restore our staff and services;
  • build our capacity to serve our communities;
  • invest in digital technologies; and
  • secure historic properties for future generations.

We know that New York’s museums need consistent, long-term financial support to achieve economic stability so that when the next flood, fire, or pandemic hits, our museums are not at risk of shutting their doors permanently.

In my testimony, I extended thanks to Governor Hochul for including $40 million in rescue/recovery funds for the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) in her 2022-23 budget and asked the legislature to include this critical funding and more in the final budget.

I thanked NYSCA for their $6.6 million in 220 grants to museums made to date for 2022, and for our new partnership program for Capacity Building Grants. I also stressed that significantly more of the state’s relief funding needs to be allocated to such a vital part of our economy.

MANY’s staff and board of directors will need your help in the coming weeks to speak out for museum funding. Half of the museums that responded to our March 2021 survey said that they have advocacy built into their annual work plan or strategic plans. Almost seventy percent said they conducted advocacy work in 2020 and 2021 by reaching out to local, state, and federal elected representatives for pandemic relief.

On Monday February 28th and Tuesday, March 1st we will be participating in the American Alliance of Museums’ “Museums Advocacy Day” along with 56 representatives from New York’s museums. I will be writing again soon to ask you to help us elevate museums to a high priority for state funding in the Legislature’s proposed budget for 2023. I know I can count on you to join together in support of our museum community.

With thanks,

Erika Sanger, Executive Director

The Museum Association of New York helps shape a better future for museums and museum professionals by uplifting best practices and building organizational capacity through advocacy, training, and networking opportunities.

Museum Association of New York is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization. 

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