MOCA CEO reveals details of museum layoffs, cutbacks

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The cash-strapped Museum of Contemporary Art is trimming its staff by 20% and cutting operating costs in an effort to reduce its annual expenses by approximately $4.4 million, the museum announced Friday.

The cuts mean the elimination of 32 jobs -- 16 full-time and 16 part-time -- across all museum departments, out of a staff of about 160. Staffers who have been laid off were notified Friday.


Although he declined to name individuals who had lost their jobs or to break down the total by job category, MOCA Chief Executive Charles E. Young said in an interview Friday that the largest staff reductions were in the curatorial support, educational and development departments. “Why? Because that’s where the money is,” Young said.

However, no curators or senior staff were let go.

In terms of how the cuts might affect museum programs and exhibitions, Young said: “I don’t want to get into specific programs.... We may be doing fewer things, but what we do we’re going to be doing to the same high level of quality.”

The move represents the latest fallout from MOCA’s continuing money woes. Renowned as one of the world’s top museums of post-World War II art, it overspent by an average of $1 million a year beginning in 2000 and has dipped into reserves to pay bills.

The California attorney general’s office has been looking into the museum’s finances after news reports that the institution had used restricted funds to cover general operating expenses.

In late December, MOCA accepted a $30-million bailout offer from billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, and the museum’s beleaguered director of nine years, Jeremy Strick, resigned.The acceptance of Broad’s offer effectively eliminated another bailout offer from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which had proposed a merger with the MOCA.

At that time, UCLA chancellor emeritus Young was appointed as the museum’s first chief executive officer, to help stabilize the institution’s rocky finances and oversee the selection of a new director.

Said Young: “I think these cuts are going to enable us to get MOCA on a sound financial footing -- that is, operating within its income -- and it will not have the problems that have existed in the past several years and generated the wave of comment we have had over the past several months.”

-- Diane Haithman