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Dallas Museum of Art lays off 8% of its staff

The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) announced this week that it has laid off 8% of its workforce amidst ongoing budget concerns. Starting 1 December, the Texas museum will additionally remove its Friday evening hours and close its doors to the public on Tuesdays. While the DMA has characterised its downsizing efforts as steps towards sustainability, ongoing plans for a $150m renovation and expansion project have not been interrupted.

In a press release, the DMA described its decision as following a “careful review of every aspect of the museum’s operations” as well as a recognition of the need to “adjust to new realities in a post-pandemic world, including rising costs, expiration of government funding and audiences not yet returning to pre-pandemic levels”. While prior efforts to lower costs produced hiring freezes and budget-friendly exhibitions of the museum’s permanent collection, recent layoffs have affected “nearly all departments”, representing a unilateral downsizing of operations. In total, 20 employee positions have been eliminated, while two were turned from full- to part-time.

With the announcement of changes to its workforce and operations, the DMA claims that it is “now in alignment with achievable revenue goals”. At the moment, it does not expect “to make other changes or further staff reductions”.

Notably, the DMA’s embrace of austerity comes in direct contrast to its multimillion-dollar expansion plans, described in its project website as a revitalization of the currently “unwelcoming, off-putting” and “difficult to navigate” two-block campus, originally designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes in 1984. In August, a proposal by the Madrid-based Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos was announced as the winning design from a shortlist of six finalists, with DMA director Agustín Arteaga claiming that the museum will have the much-needed opportunity to show “masterworks” previously kept in storage, and showcase “the most significant collection of contemporary art of any encyclopaedic museum”.

No updates have yet been given regarding changes to exhibition scheduling or staff throughout the renovation process, and The Art Newspaper’s request for comment remains unanswered.

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