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We Need You. More from Joe



Thanks for digging deeper.

I write seeking your financial support.

By now, 76 days have passed since MASS MoCA’s last performing arts event, and 68 days since the last visitor graced our galleries. Much has transpired:

  • After losing – almost overnight – nearly all earned revenues (which comprised 70% of our total budget), we laid off 122 of 165 employees, invoked deep salary reductions on remaining staff, and reduced every operating cost to a bare-bones minimum. We took those actions more rapidly than some sister institutions, because our financial reserves are modest.
  • As painful as those cuts were, we recognized that minimizing costs would not be sufficient to allow MASS MoCA to survive without extraordinary financial measures; so, in special meetings, our Board of Trustees approved emergency draws of $2 million in board-restricted funds to cover skeleton-crew staffing, site security, contingency planning, facilities maintenance, and tenant services.
  • At the same time, Trustees made extraordinary gifts and accelerated their pledged donations, providing another $600,000 in cash, which in turn triggered another $500,000 in emergency contributions from charitable foundations. 100% of current MASS MoCA board members (and many, many former board members) participated in this internal “in the family” effort.
  • Besides tending to the facility and our 38 commercial tenants who cohabit this factory campus with MASS MoCA, and in addition to undertaking vital fundraising and communications efforts, our staff has developed a contingency plan, accommodating a wide range of still unknowable “re-opening” timelines. This work included conversations and negotiations with hundreds of artists and programming partners whose creative work is the essence of our mission. 3-D chess is a piece of cake, in comparison to shuffling 250,000 SF of art and rescheduling dozens of performances, all with a quicksand schedule.
  • A federal Payroll Protection Plan loan application of $913,000 was successful, a portion of which will be qualified for forgiveness. That money is being put to work as I write, re-mobilizing staff to prepare our galleries and facility for your visit (including all the social-distancing measures you would expect). The upcoming exhibitions will be just as exciting, and just as meaningful, and just as entertaining as you’ve become accustomed to at MASS MoCA. The titles alone tell the story: Kissing through a Curtain, Blane De St. Croix’s How to Move a Landscape, and Wendy Red Star’s Apsáalooke: Children of the Large-Beaked Bird. Among many other projects, our work over the next few months will include completion of a lovely new public green space, on the corner of Main and Marshall Streets, to better host Martin Puryear’s Big Bling and to create a stronger connection between MASS MoCA’s campus and the downtown business district. Art is indeed long, and life will go on.


In short, we’ve done the work necessary to sustain MASS MoCA during the COVID-19 closure, and to allow it to safely re-open with grace, style, and, we hope, fun.

But we are not done.

When the museum re-opens, there is no doubt that our circumstances will be radically changed, and constrained. I don’t know whether it will be MASS MoCA 2004, or MASS MoCA 2013, but I know for certain that it will not be MASS MoCA 2019. For one thing, our vibrant performing arts program will be greatly reduced, for at least a while. Our diverse audience, which had grown from 70,000 a year in our early days, to over a quarter of a million visitors annually over the last several years, will likely be reduced. Some commercial tenants who occupy this campus with us (and who support MASS MoCA’s programs with their rent) will likely struggle as the economy, and society as we knew it, slowly re-engage. Our financial reserves will be significantly diminished, both by the market and by our need to draw upon them to survive.

So, the challenges will continue for many months, if not years, and, in short, we need your help.

As it stands today – and assuming our galleries can re-open in some form this summer, but also assuming that our performing arts program will be significantly curtailed well into the fall or winter – I believe we need to at least double the bridge funding raised to date, over the next 6 months. Those assumptions could prove optimistic, in which case our funding needs will grow.

If you are willing to donate funds to our COVID-19 Relief Fund, please do it now, and do it knowing that a long-time supporter of MASS MoCA has pledged a matching challenge gift of $250,000, if we can triple it by the end of May. With about $250,000 to go, we are getting close. To meet the challenge will require a few hefty contributions, for sure, but also lots and lots of smaller gifts. Every single dollar matters.

Donate here by credit card, or better yet, save us the 3% credit card processing fee by simply sending a check, c/o Paulette Wein, MASS MoCA, 1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, MA 01247.

Sincerely yours,

Joes Signature




Joseph Thompson

P.S. I recently wrote a short thought-piece to explain why museums can be among the best places for us all to begin to re-gather, safely, with the right procedures in place. If you’re interested, here it is.