Scott Ball / Rivard Report
The San Antonio Museum of Art let go 11 of its 108 employees last week, Museum Director Katie Luber confirmed Tuesday.
The layoffs were made, she said, because of unexpected costs for roof and HVAC repairs.
“It was a targeted set of staff reductions that reflect both the strength of our existing staff and were made to make sure the museum can continue to operate and deliver its core mission and its excellent programs,” Luber said.
While staff reductions at arts organizations often are triggered by failure to raise funds, mismanagement, rising operational costs, and the like, Luber said the budget problems at the Museum of Art were caused by unexpected expenditures.
“In the last 18 months, the museum has had several unanticipated, very costly capital expenditures – expensive damage to every roof on our buildings during that horrific hail storm [in April 2016] which led to the early closing of one of our exhibitions,” Luber said. While the roof was insured, “insurance does not cover all costs, nor does it pay for ancillary expenses such as de-installing a major exhibition in an emergency.”
The special exhibition Corita Kent and the Language of Pop was forced to close early due to the hail storm.
The museum also needed to replace its HVAC system for the safety of its collections and day-to-day comfort. While raising money to pay for it, two air-conditioning chillers malfunctioned and the cooling towers failed.
Overall, the expenses amounted to $200,000, according to a statement released by the museum Tuesday.
“It all inevitably affects our operating costs, and being good fiduciary leaders we always track our budget,” Luber said. “We saw we were over budget, and we knew we had to make some changes to be able to continue our financial health for the future of the museum.”
The excess expenses would be addressed with “a combination of cost-cutting measures across all departments” as well as “departmental reorganization that will better support our mission.
“The decision to make these reductions was a difficult one, but they are essential to ensure the Museum’s ongoing financial stability, as well as our ability to provide the best and most engaging art experiences to our visitors,” the statement read.
As for the education department, which works with schools and adults for tours and classroom learning, Luber said the department has “a number of capable staff prepared to step in and fill the gap.”
Luber said she hopes to refill the positions left vacant as a result of the layoffs after the budget is stabilized, adding that the layoffs will not affect museum operations “at all.”
“We are able to continue to deliver the innovative programs and exhibitions that we have always made our core mission,” she said. “We are committed to the future of the arts in San Antonio, and our staff is committed to delivering those excellent programs and excellent exhibitions that we’re known for.”
Those terminated have been provided financial support and will receive recommendations and assistance in seeking other jobs, according to Luber.
On Friday, the museum will open an exhibition of Asian art, Heaven and Hell: Salvation and Retribution in Pure Land Buddhism.