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Jenny Waldman, Art Fund director.

UK’s Art Fund to Award $2.5 Million in Coronavirus Relief for Cultural Institutions

The London-based charitable organization Art Fund has pledged $2.5 million in grants for museums and galleries in the United Kingdom impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, in an effort to cushion the financial losses and expected drop in visitors and revenue as cultural organizations prepare to reopen. Nearly $2 million have been allocated for the immediate needs of institutions. The funds will go toward collections and exhibitions, the development of digital skills and infrastructure, audience engagement initiatives and reopening costs, and staff support, which were identified as the four key areas of focus from the charity’s Covid-19 impact research, published in May.

Based on two surveys—one for museum professionals, and another for museum directors—which collected data from more than four hundred responses, the Art Fund report found that “the most pressing concern for almost all organizations is safe reopening and attracting audiences back, and the financial impact of opening with social distancing measures.” It also found that 85 percent of directors are concerned about the capacity to bring visitors back. And though more than half of all staff were worried about the futures of their workplaces, the rates were much higher in independent organizations—which are less likely to have received funds from existing emergency pandemic grants—as opposed to university or state-run spaces.

In response, Art Fund will award $2 million in grants, ranging between $12,500 and $63,000, to organizations, which may begin applying for funding on Tuesday, June 16. The first round of grants will close July 6. An additional $350,000 will support smaller local authority museums and independent organizations that have not yet received emergency funding—56 percent of accredited UK museums are community-based and largely volunteer-run, and another $188,000 will be available for the “Museums and Galleries Network for Exhibition Touring” (MAGNET), an initiative that will produce collaborative, nationally touring exhibitions drawn from the collections of twelve organizations, including the National Museums Liverpool, the Bristol Museums, and the Glasgow Museums. The first show is slated to open in October 2021, with a focus on international hair cultures.

“The future of our museums and galleries, which are so vital to society, is far from certain,” said Art Fund director Jenny Waldman. “We encourage all those at immediate risk or re-imagining future ways of working to get in touch. However, these steps alone will not secure the future—more help is required. We are now fundraising so we can continue to support museums and galleries and we’re calling for everyone to come together to help support museums and galleries adapt and thrive during the biggest challenge in our lifetime.”

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