New Hula

Thu, Aug 06, 2020

Robb Woulfe

Robb Woulfe - Executive Director

On Agility, Resilience, & Creating Joyful Spaces

Dear MAH supporters:

With so much uncertainty due to the pandemic, you may be wondering what the MAH has been up to, and what is on the horizon for our organization. Lately, people have also been asking the museum industry how we will address issues of systematic racism, longstanding labor inequity, and looming financial shortfalls. We hope this letter will answer some of those questions.

We at the MAH have spent the past six months getting our house in order, both literally and figuratively. Just as you have been tackling your own projects during shelter-in-place, we have been busy organizing, prioritizing, and “finding our space” within this season of change. We have used the opportunity to review our work, strengthen our values, plan for the future, and get creative with programming by offering virtual, educational, and small group experiences beyond the museum walls.

Together with our board and staff, we have taken inventory and contemplated what we need to run our organization efficiently and sustainably in a way that best serves you, our community, in these changed times. And we continue to look forward, evolving our offerings as we go so that we can, in turn, help you find your space.

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Refreshed Atrium space.

Here’s what we’ve been doing:

  • Improving the physical MAH: We painted and updated the atrium to be more comfortable and welcoming, and conducted deep-cleaning, decluttering, and organizing throughout our facility.
  • Honoring our shared history: As a step toward ensuring our diverse history is represented, we installed a series of commemorative plaques. Some honor the museum’s founders, so that all who enter will know how the MAH came to be. Another acknowledges that the land on which the MAH stands is the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe, and how the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band is working to heal from historical trauma and restore stewardship practices.
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  • Restructuring the organization: In April we took a big and difficult step, reducing staff levels by 11 to lower spending, with the goal of long-term financial sustainability. We restructured staff roles to streamline operations, manage workloads effectively, and ensure institutional stability. In doing so we have strengthened management capacity and improved leadership competencies across all areas of our operations.
  • Committing to change: Our board recently introduced a new Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (DEAI) Committee, who will team with our existing, staff-led anti-racism working group. We recognize that there are inequities in our field and we aim to dismantle this status quo by redesigning how we recruit, hire, and promote staff; how we create employment pipelines and leadership development opportunities; and how we choose our vendors, suppliers, collaborators, and partners.
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Chalk Artist, Dennis Scott, in Abbott Square.

  • Making strategic plans: Later this year we will undergo a formal strategic planning process, integrating the work of the DEAI Committee. We plan to update our operations by identifying specific goals, strategies to achieve them, annual priorities, and evaluation measures that allow us to self-analyze and adjust course as needed. We will fine-tune the business and financial strategies we have been developing in order to weather the COVID closures and ensure organizational resilience into the future.
  • Doing more with less: Our budget has seen a 23% reduction over the last year and continues to be impacted by extended closures and revenue losses. While we are adjusting and making do with fewer resources, we are also maintaining perspective and expressing gratitude at our ability to continue our work and serve our community.
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Free for Members weekly Luma Yoga classes in Abbott Square.

  • Planning for reopening: While our reopening date remains up in the air, we are preparing for it by developing guidelines, procedures, and strategies for a safe reopening. Among them, we plan to embrace our outdoor sites for installations, well-distanced gatherings, screenings, and performances. We're dreaming up small get-togethers and creative projects in Abbott Square and Evergreen Cemetery, always keeping in mind the safety of our guests and staff.
  • Delivering new programming: While our doors remain temporarily closed, we are finding new ways to connect and engage with the Santa Cruz County community. From online programs and virtual tours to outdoor exhibitions and micro-gatherings, we have been and will continue to adapt our offerings to provide safe, reflective, and inspirational spaces rich with art, history, and culture. By remaining responsive to change, we can offer opportunities that energize, sustain, and support our community, now and in the future.

While it may not address all the challenges that lie ahead, this work keeps us going in a positive direction, as we create new ways of thinking and operating that will serve us even after the pandemic recedes. The coming years will be difficult, unlike anything we as a community or institution have faced. We will be smaller, but more agile, nimble, and resilient. We will continue doing everything in our power to support our community through this extraordinary time and the reconnecting and rebuilding that comes next.

To support the MAH’s work, I ask you to please consider making a contribution if you’re able, either by purchasing a membership, making a donation, or both. Your gift, at any level, will make a difference. And to those of you who have already generously given, we thank you.

Once it is prudent to do so, we look forward to welcoming everyone back to the MAH, now refreshed and ready to receive you. After all, our house is your house, nuestra casa es su casa. In the meantime, we will continue to create safe and inclusive spaces the best way we know how—whether online or outdoors, with new friends or in solitary contemplation.

We all need our space, especially now. Whether it is space to ponder, or space to connect. Space to imagine, or space to heal. Space to fill the soul. Whatever it means to you—we are here, working hard to help you find your space.

-Robb Woulfe, Executive Director