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Minneapolis Institute of Art

Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

Minneapolis Institute of Arts cuts jobs to salvage budget

  • Article by: MARY ABBE
  • Star Tribune
  • April 20, 2011 - 9:31 AM

Anticipating tough financial times, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts has eliminated 10 staff positions as part of a reorganization intended to trim $1.4 million from its budget next year.

The staff cuts, executed earlier this month, include a prominent curator and the membership director, whose department was eliminated. The reorganization is expected to ensure that the museum will balance its $24.6 million annual budget this year and allow it to continue offering free admission and a full schedule of programs in the fiscal year beginning June 30.

Cutting jobs was a difficult decision necessitated by the museum's need to "plan for the future and maintain a balanced budget," said Kaywin Feldman, the museum's director and president, in a prepared statement.

Ironically, word of the cuts leaked out Tuesday as Feldman and the museum's trustees met to approve purchases of art for virtually every curatorial department, including a medieval religious carving, a 17th-century Dutch painting, works of African and American Indian origin, drawings and contemporary pieces. The tab for that art could equal if not exceed the money saved from future salaries, but those expenditures are technically unrelated to the museum's operating budget. Money for art purchases typically comes from special restricted funds while operating money comes from endowment revenue, Hennepin County taxes, income from programs and private contributions.

The cuts are the largest since 2009, when 19 people lost their jobs in a $1.7 million retrenchment that included salary reductions, a canceled exhibition and program trims.

In this round, seven full-time and three part-time posts were eliminated from a staff of 252. The highest-profile position to go is that of Sue Canterbury, associate curator of paintings. During her 12 years at the museum, Canterbury organized a popular 2009 exhibition of American art from local collections, reassessed the work of the black American painter Beauford Delaney, and oversaw shows of paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe and Renaissance art from the Wadsworth Atheneum.

Membership director Ann Benrud and her assistant were dismissed and their duties shifted to the museum's marketing department. Other positions were cut in government and community affairs, carpentry, office and guard services.

The museum expects its operating budget to rise to $24.8 million next year while its revenue stays flat, said spokesperson Anne-Marie Wagener. Endowment income is expected to be roughly comparable to this fiscal year, when it will total $4.3 million. Public funds are down and "contributor levels are dipping," she said.

Almost half of the museum's operating money comes from the "park-museum fund," a century-old Hennepin County tax that provides public support in exchange for free admission. That fund, which has risen steadily in recent years, provided the museum $12.6 million in fiscal 2010. Any substantial decrease in tax revenues could hit the museum hard next year.

Mary Abbe • 612-673-4431

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