When the pandemic came along, it derailed a lot of plans. Businesses had to shut down with no notice. Some have re-opened. Some are struggling to re-open. Others have been unable to continue and have gone out of business.
Peter Ricchiuti’s guests on this edition of Out to Lunch are both in a strange, gray area. They both have unorthodox businesses. They both have millions of dollars of investment sunk into them. And neither of them quite knows what the future holds.
Julia Bland is CEO of the Louisiana Children’s Museum. For 33 years the museum was on Julia Street, in the Warehouse District. In August 2019 the museum opened the doors of its new facility – 56,000 square feet of a brand new, purpose-built construction in City Park. This impressive-looking new museum took over a decade to bring to life. With a price tag of over $47m.
On August 17th 2020, Julia had to lay off 40 employees, and close the doors of the museum.
The Louisiana Children’s Museum will reopen at some point. But when, and what that will look like, is hard to predict right now.
For almost 20 years, Kenneth Hoffman helped build and run the World War II Museum in New Orleans. In 2017 Kenneth left that position to build a new museum in New Orleans. Today Kenneth is Executive Director of the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience.
It’s the only museum in the United States dedicated to the study of the Jewish experience within a specific region. Or, at least, it will be when it opens its doors.
The museum had raised $6m of its projected $10m budget, and was slated to open in a building just off of Lee Circle in October 2020. But the pandemic has forced those plans to change. The building is still there. The exhibits are ready. The extensive collection of artefacts is curated. But the anticipated 40,000 visitors a year are nowhere to be seen. And there’s not enough confidence in how long it will take recover, to hire the staff required to run a facility of this size.
The ultimate fate of the Louisiana Children’s Museum and the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience is yet to be determined. We know that both these organizations have lost significant revenue and have lost employees, but what is less able to be calculated is the cost to the community of these institutions being closed. We certainly hope that the museums’ financial losses can be held at bay, but we equally hope that both of these museums get to open soon for the greater good they bring to the residents and soul of the city of New Orleans.
Photos by Jill Lafleur. Looking for more lunchtime conversation about New Orleans museums? Here’s a conversation about The World War II Museum and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.