Uncategorized #14 – The Long Road Ahead

April 5, 2020 in Uncategorized

Welcome back. It was an interesting week. Things felt smoother at home. I think we’ve begun to find a reasonable flow and routine that seems to be working most days. We’ve been keeping the pantry and the fridge stocked, cooking quite a bit, and enjoying our time with our son and all his craziness. My instagram is nearly 100% baby content now.

But, it was a particularly hard week outside. Out in the world, people are suffering, and things look bleak. Last week over 6 million Americans filed for unemployment. I can’t even imagine what that amounts to.  It brings us to 10 million just in the month of March. We also broke the 1 million worldwide COVID cases mark (the ones we know about) and in New York City, well, just open any newspaper and read for yourself. If you want a nice way to keep track of the numbers, try this site

In the cultural sector world, which is where I spend a good deal of time observing and communicating, there’s been loads of layoffs and furloughs. I’ve been trying my best to keep track of them all, but it’s not easy. Museums around the country are laying off 75-85% of their staff. One museum cut 14 out of their 15 employees, saving just their social media manager to, I guess, keep the fire burning?

It’s a difficult time to be a cultural professional. It’s a difficult time for all of us. I keep thinking about how scary it must be for folks who are used to a good deal of job security to suddenly be without. I keep thinking about the families who are thrust into the unknown, with bills mounting, and kids to feed. It must be incredibly scary.

There was a really interesting thread on Twitter (which I am now having trouble finding) this week about whether or not it’s a good time to be a museum studies student. It was interesting not because of the current day to day, rapidly changing landscape of opportunity and loss, but because it was looking longer term. When we come out of this crisis (and we will) what will things look like? How long will it take to rebuild the country? The thread was mostly about how we will certainly be looking at a saturated market for jobs in the cultural sector—one that was already pretty well saturated before the pandemic. It basically suggested that students currently enrolled in these kinds of programs should reconsider.

All of this of course has me thinking about my studio and our work and our client base. We’ve focused most of our attention on the cultural sector, because we think it’s an underserved area when it comes to technology. That doesn’t change, but priorities do. We’ve already experienced one client walking away from a project because of the pandemic, and we’ve noticed others have been taking their time getting back to us. It’s not surprising to me, but nonetheless, troubling. 

I’ve read so much about how this crisis has already been so hard on the “gig economy.” Whether it’s loss of sustainable work because nobody is hiring your type of talent, or dire working conditions, because your type of gigs are the things nobody wants to do right now—gig workers seem to be getting hit from every direction. 

Our studio, in a way, is part of that economy. Our business structure is simple. There are two full time staff members between myself and a project manager. We pay ourselves a salary and benefits. Everyone else is a contractor or another partner studio of some kind who we pay fees by the hour or project. Over the past three years we’ve worked with over a dozen independent contractors and studios in one way or another, paying them nearly $750,000. It’s easily our biggest expense as a company, and I’m very proud that we’ve been able to do this. It also has meant that we’ve been able to create specialized teams for each and every project we’ve taken on for our clients—something I know is very hard to do within an organization.

With the cultural sector feeling the pressures of an economic downturn, with no idea when they’ll be able to reopen, it’s troubling to say the least, and I’ve already been wondering where that leaves us as a studio. Like everyone, we will adapt and twist and turn and figure this out, but I just hope we can continue to service this sector, since I know deep down that it’s an important one, and one which has a profound effect on the communities it serves.

In the meantime, if you are reading this, and you are someone who works in this sector, or someone who knows someone who does, please think of us as you navigate the coming months. As I’ve mentioned before, our studio is here to help you and your organization. If you’d like to chat, I offer FREE office-hours throughout the week. Just book a slot with me and I’ll be happy to talk you off the ledge, or share a coffee, or listen to you rant. If your organization is struggling, wondering what to do, or already looking to move on a great idea, we could probably help you. 

And of course, if you aren’t someone who works in the cultural sector, that’s cool too! I’d love to chat about whatever it is that’s on your mind.

I hope you have a great week!

Micah


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