Photo by Chuck Lysen via Travel Tacoma

The Museum of Glass’ fourth annual Breakfast at the Cone fundraiser looked a bit different from previous iterations of the event, with participants this time preparing their own meals and brewing their own coffee to attend a live virtual fundraising event this morning.

Standing in the museum’s almost-empty hot shop, Executive Director Debbie Lenk thanked the virtual audience and expressed sadness surrounding recent events, including the economic impact of COVID-19.

“Like other organizations in the arts and hospitality industries and many of you, MOG was hard hit by COVID-19,” Lenk said. “Closing the doors to our galleries, having to idle our furnaces here in the hot shop, closing our museum store and café, it was a very emotional experience for us.”

Pointing to a recent ArtsFund survey of Puget Sound-area museums that revealed a projected combined income loss of more than $74 million at the end of May, Lenk went on to say that the mid-March closure of the museum took away more than 50 percent of the income it relies upon to keep the museum viable.

“The numbers really illustrate what a powerful difference the arts have made,” Lenk said.

In keeping with “the art of rebuilding together” event theme, Lenk revealed the ways in which the museum has been innovating, including recording virtual classes and making its video archives available to schools as the 2020-21 school year structure remains uncertain.

Additionally, the Museum of Glass, the Tacoma museum district, Travel Tacoma, and the South Sound community have a bright spot on the horizon in the form of the international Glass Arts Society Conference that has selected Tacoma for its 50th anniversary event slated for May 2021.

“With all these positive things going on we are full of hope,” Lenk said. “MOG helped revitalize Tacoma … and we will do it again.”

Lenk then introduced MutliCare Health System President and CEO Bill Robertson. Robertson, a Museum of Glass board member, thanked event sponsors, somberly reminded attendees of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic both globally and here in the Puget Sound, and introduced keynote speaker John Oppenheimer, founder and CEO of Columbia Hospitality.

Oppenheimer revealed the U.S. tourism and hospitality industry has lost more than 50 million jobs and is projected to lose at least $24 billion in revenue by the end of 2020 — at least nine times greater than impact on tourism caused by the events of 9/11.

The way out of this storm, Oppenheimer said, is through the power of “yes,” hope, and optimism.

“It’s the positivity that is the glue that holds us together,” he told the virtual audience. “There are many silver linings. It is a chance to reinforce and lead with values, respect sincerity, honesty, accountability, creativity, and enthusiasm.”

Drawing parallels between the Great Depression and recent events — and citing innovations of the era such as double features, Miracle Whip, soap operas, and animated movies — Oppenheimer said now is the time to look for silver linings and ways to innovate.

In the case of Oppenheimer’s Columbia Hospitality, silver linings include establishing a weekly employee newsletter, founding an organization to help its furloughed workers, acquiring new properties, giving back to the communities surrounding its properties, establishing an in-house call center to add new jobs, and more.

Oppenheimer concluded by reassuring attendees that things will eventually rebound, citing positive experiences he’s seen in the reopening of Columbia Hospitality properties in states less affected by COVID-19.

Breakfast at the Cone sponsors included MultiCare Health Systems, Premera Blue Cross, WeRTacoma, CHI Franciscan, BECU, University of Washington Tacoma, Cain Brothers, KPMG, Milgard School of Business, Studer Group, Tacoma Community College, University of Puget Sound, Brown & Brown Insurance, Thompson Consulting Group, South Sound Business, Propel Insurance, and Greene Gasaway.

A video from the event and a link to donate to the fundraiser can be found at Breakfast at the Cone’s website.