Minneapolis Art Institute ends fiscal year in the black

  • Article by: MARY ABBE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 22, 2011 - 9:45 AM

Spending and job cuts helped balance the budget in a year when attendance and membership dropped.

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Minneapolis Institute of Art

Photo: TOM SWEENEY, STAR TRIBUNE

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The Minneapolis Institute of Arts ended its fiscal year with a balanced budget, director Kaywin Feldman announced Thursday at the museum's annual meeting.

In other good news, the museum's endowment closed out the year June 30 at $191 million, up from $162 million in fiscal 2010. The endowment's present status is just shy of its pre-recession high point in 2007.

The financial stability is due in part to an April reorganization that trimmed $1.4 million from museum operations, resulting in a new annual budget of $24.6 million. Ten jobs were cut from the staff of 252, including a high-profile associate curator of paintings and the membership director, whose department was eliminated.

Attendance dropped more than 8 percent to 471,000 from 554,000 last year, when it was boosted by popular shows of contemporary art and treasures from the Louvre in Paris.

The museum added 3,600 new members, but overall membership fell nearly 14 percent to 19,087. Membership has ranged from a high of 31,000 in 2003, when it was driven by exhibits of rare Egyptian art and Picasso prints, to its previous low of 19,400 in 1995.

The museum's finances are significantly buttressed by a Hennepin County tax levy that this year provided $11.7 million for operating expenses. The museum provides free admission and other programs in response to the tax support.

Feldman also discussed recent art purchases, ranging from a silver-mounted cup incorporating a nautilus shell, to contemporary photographs and "View of Mont Blanc," an important painting by the 19th-century French artist Théodore Rousseau. Among housekeeping statistics, she noted that the museum replaced 4,575 light bulbs in the galleries and freshened the walls with 350 gallons of paint.

As with museums everywhere, the MIA is eager to engage new audiences and be relevant. So Feldman's report touted the institution's new Wi-Fi capabilities, Facebook sessions, gallery iPads and gaming experiments.

Audience surveys suggest that new marketing efforts are successfully reaching the all-important younger demographic -- the average age of visitors dropped from 46 in 2004 to 39 this year.

"The ethnic diversity of our visitors also matches that of Minneapolis now, which is good because prior to that it was basically white females," museum spokeswoman Anne-Marie Wagener said before the meeting. Nevertheless, women visitors still vastly outnumber men, at 59 percent vs. 41 percent.

Mary Abbe • 612-673-4431

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