“We care deeply about our employees and this has been a very difficult decision for us,” museum director Halona Norton-Westbrook said in a written response to a Star-Advertiser inquiry.
“Like other businesses, we’re adjusting our operations to the needs of the museum during the pandemic and our temporary closure.”
The museum, which is temporarily closed, cut a third of its full-time staff and all part-time and seasonal workers due to a lack of regular work and until it can start staffing up again in anticipation of reopening, Northon-Westbrook said.
“With the adjustments we’ve made today, and the solid financial footing the museum has been on, we are well positioned to weather the pandemic and begin a gradual return to more robust operations and levels of staffing,” she said.
For now, the museum is engaging audiences online with art instruction, dialog and programming for the entire family.
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak in Hawaii, the museum’s trustees were faced with a series of tough financial decisions.
The 90-year institution put two of its properties up for sale, namely the Spalding House, which housed the Contemporary Museum of Art, as well as Puu Panini, the historic Diamond Head home designed by Vladimir Ossipoff.
In 2011, the Honolulu Academy of Arts merged with the Contemporary Museum of Art in Makiki Heights to help strengthen both institutions under the Honolulu Museum of Art brand.
“We’re anticipating, as are other many museums around the country, that it will be a long road to getting back to normal operations,” Norton-Westbrook said. “This move helps us to better prepare for an extended closure, and for when we can open to the public once again with a renewed sense of purpose and vision for serving the community.
“We will reopen with an eye to the future and hope that many of those laid off today can and will be rejoining us at that time.”