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Continued: Minnesota African American Museum remains in mothballs

  • Article by: ALEJANDRA MATOS , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 14, 2014 - 10:38 PM

“We need to see how everything gets resolved,” Muñoz Lyon said.

Conflict with state, county

In addition to resolving the lien, the state wants to see an updated construction budget, matching contributions from private sources, and proof that the museum has the ability and a plan to fund the project before it releases the grant money.

The e-mails also show that county and state officials also expressed concern about the museum’s future. An e-mail between county officials in April 2013 says the county had not received evidence the museum had “the ability and a plan to fund the operation.”

“The concern here is that the museum has not yet provided satisfactory evidence that it will be able to open and operate the museum over the long-term,” Kardell wrote to County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin.

Givens and others on the museum’s board believe the state and county are creating new obstacles to get the money. In a March e-mail, Givens said she would have never gone after the state funds without understanding all that was required to get it.

“The process and qualifications are too robust for MAAM [the Minnesota African American Museum],” she said.

In an interview, McLaughlin said he met with museum and state representatives in late April to discuss how to get the money for the museum. At that time, he said the museum and county each had issues to resolve but that he was optimistic.

“We are making progress,” he said when asked for an update last week.

Is it open? Some think it is

The clock is also ticking on a $396,000 Legacy grant approved for the museum in 2013. In the contract for the funding, Givens proposed hosting at least 1,000 annual visitors, three distinct exhibits and a minimum of 50 annual class field trips. She presented a budget to the state with expenditures of $169,500 for educational materials and $130,000 in salaries.

In order to get the money, the museum must show it has spent money on functions like new exhibits and then submit receipts.

The museum has yet to do that, said Curt Yoakum with the state’s Department of Administration. Receipts are due at the end of June, but if the museum hasn’t used the money by then, it can ask for a one-year extension.

Time also appears to be running out for the building itself. In a March e-mail sent to Rep. Karen Clark, DFL-Minneapolis, and other state representatives, Givens and Jones asked for an additional $ 1 million and expressed frustration that the earlier $1 million award has not been disbursed.

“The physical property of the [museum] has languished, and physically deteriorated, to a catastrophic point,” Givens wrote, adding that the lien is the result of the county staff’s inexperience and the museum’s “inability to communicate the dire need for action.”

A proposed budget contained in the e-mails reveals the museum’s new leaders intend to open the museum in January 2015.

Edwards said the ongoing delays have created confusion about whether the museum is actually up and running.

“What it has done in the community is people actually get in arguments saying the museum is open,” he said. “It’s not open. It’s not close to being open.”

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  • Sept. 17, 2012: Museum misses opening date again

    Monday September 17, 2012

    Saturday was the third missed opening-day deadline for the Minnesota African American Museum. The founder says negotiations with the bank continue.

  • Six years after it was founded, the Minnesota African American Museum in Minneapolis has been kept from opening its doors because of financial issues.

  • The Coe Mansion, the home of the museum in Steven Square in Minneapolis, has remained in shambles, as money has been tight.

  • The Minnesota African American Museum had its “grand opening” years ago but remains closed as organizers have run into construction difficulties, resulting in other funding slowing down until the legal issues are settled. Meanwhile, the building is deteriorating.

  • Supporters of the Minnesota African American Museum said they are committed to seeing the institution open as soon as possible.

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