Walker Art Center lays off eight staff members

  • Article by: MARY ABBE
  • Star Tribune
  • March 2, 2013 - 7:23 AM


Eight Walker Art Center staff jobs were eliminated Friday in a cost-cutting move designed to enable the contemporary art museum to balance its budget for the fiscal year ending June 30.

The jobs eliminated Friday will reduce the museum’s staff by about 5 percent, from 148 to 140 people.

The move trimmed roughly 3 percent from the center’s operating budget for the year, which is expected to be about $18.5 million. Olga Viso, Walker director, announced the dismissals at a staff meeting in which she also described modest trims to programs and operations.

“I’m not at liberty to discuss the specific cuts, but it’s across a number of program and support functions,” said Walker spokesman Ryan French.

He said the cuts were necessitated by a drop in the income the center derives from its $175 million endowment. Stock-market conditions that have buffeted the center’s endowment have also slowed contributions from individuals and corporations, French said.

In 2012, the Walker had an annual budget of $18.2 million, of which $14.1 million came from endowment income and contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations. The remaining $4.1 million was income earned from programs, museum admission, food service and facility rental.

Five of the people laid off Friday will be offered temporary contracts lasting from a few weeks to several months to allow them to complete continuing projects.

A yearlong program of repairs to Walker’s 1971 brick-clad wing, which is expected to cost between $7 million and $8 million, will not be affected by Friday’s layoffs.

“That is a capital repair that is not part of the 2012-13 budget,” French said.

The most recent staff cuts at the Walker occurred two years ago, when nine staff members were dismissed as part of a strategic plan also designed to balance the budget. At that time Viso took a 10 percent salary and benefit cut, and three senior managers lost 3 percent of their salaries. Salaries and benefits were also frozen for other staff in 2010.

This year there were no additional cuts to salaries and benefits, French said.


Mary Abbe • 612-673-4431

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