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Springfield Museums receive $1.2 million in federal funding to help with financial losses from COVID

SPRINGFIELD — When the Springfield Museums closed to the public during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, it was the first time in their history.

“Our museums are more than 160 years old. We have never in our history been closed to the public. It was shocking,” said Kay Simpson, president and CEO of the Springfield Museums.

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, state Reps. Carlos Gonzalez and Bud Williams, D-Springfield, joined Simpson and Small Business Alliance Massachusetts district office director Robert Nelson on Thursday on the Quadrangle Green to announce a $1.2 million Shuttered Venue Operator Grant for the museums.

“A year ago America lost 22 million jobs and everything was shuttered. It was not because of malfeasance, it was not about corruption. It was about what the Bible calls pestilence. The first pandemic of its scope in more than a century,” Neal said.

Simpson said the pandemic has been devastating to the region’s cultural and tourism industry.

“After we opened the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum in 2017 our attendance doubled, and by the beginning of 2020 our visitation was actually increasing,” she said. “COVID-19 really devastated small business and certainly the entire tourism industry, including cultural organizations like museums.”

Simpson said the grant will go toward recouping the revenue loss from ticket sales, the museum store and program fees.
Grants of up to $15,000 were awarded through the program to retain or recruit staff, replace lost revenue and rebuild audiences. Neal said to date there have been 39 Shuttered Venue Operator Grants awarded, totaling nearly $28 million, in Massachusetts’ 1st Congressional District.

In the latest round, a total of $118,383 was awarded to 11 cultural organizations in the district, including the museums, the Westfield Athenaeum and Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke.

“We have a legacy here that is so rich and contributes to the quality of life for the people who live here, and that is part of the legacy that we have to maintain (with this funding),” Neal said.

Williams and Gonzalez said the museums are a treasure in the community, more so because they are free to Springfield residents.
“Arts and culture are the heart and soul of any vibrant city and the Springfield Museums are the heart and soul of Western Massachusetts,” Gonzalez said.

Mass Humanities has also announced grants to 90 organizations across Massachusetts totaling almost $1 million. The Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan grants provide emergency funding to the smallest organizations, including museums, historical societies and historic sites.

“The grants are another significant step in the journey to sustain the humanities at the local level,” said Brian Boyles, executive director of Mass Humanities. “As we continue to combat COVID-19, these funds will save jobs, build capacity, and allow organizations to develop new programs to serve their communities.”

“The First Congressional District is home to countless organizations that provide resources for the study of art, language, literature, philosophy, history, and so much more. These grants are imperative to their recovery and economic success,” Neal said.

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