Intermedia Arts Executive Director Eyenga Bokamba. Image courtesy of Intermedia.
Breaking up is hard to do, particularly if it has nothing to do with personal feelings and everything to do with a darn fiscal budget. In an email announcement Tuesday, Intermedia Arts made what Executive Director Eyenga Bokamba calls some “very tough decisions,” cutting two of its 13 core staff positions in a move that will save the organization about $200,000.
“The lifeblood of any organization is the people who work there, so these decisions have not been made lightly,” Bokamba wrote. She declined to identify the staff members, honoring their professional paths moving forward.
“While it is painful ... we also want to make sure we move forward in a way that makes the organization as strong as possible,” said Bokamba when reached by phone.
Intermedia Arts boasts a fiscal year 2018 budget of $1.4 million. The Minnesota State Arts Board provides approximately $250K for general operating funds, arts access and arts learning. Another $750K comes from private sources, such as the Bush Foundation, Warhol Foundation, Nash Foundation and Sundance Foundation. About $400K is expected to come from earned revenue.
The decision to reduce spending came after a process with Nonprofit Assistance Fund, a local organization that helps nonprofits manage their boards, leadership styles, financial management and governance.
“One of things they were very hopeful in this past year with me about was how to create a budget that actually — if you can hold to it — guarantees a surplus,” said Bokamba. “Part of the exercise of FY18 is to do that so that at the end of the year we are actually creating a cushion for ourselves. I find that a very progressive idea," as opposed to the typical process at not-for-profits where "you are always trying to spend down to zero," she said.
Intermedia Arts has been around the Twin Cities for 44 years. Their focus is on three areas of programming: public programming, youth development and creative leadership. Earlier this year, the organization hosted the third annual “Up & Out,” a multidisciplinary arts festival, creating space for queer and trans youth to share stories and artwork. As a nationally recognized leader, Intermedia is focused on “empowering artists and community leaders to used arts-based approaches to solve community issues,” with a deep commitment to inclusive processes for people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community and immigrant communities.
Bokamba, who has been with Intermedia for a year-and-a-half, emphasized the importance of Intermedia as a space of “safety, where tough issues can be explored and dialogue and connections abound,” and ensuring that it is a place where people can “not only survive, but thrive.”
Despite the changes, Intermedia has plenty of programming going on. The Summer Arts Institutes for Teens just kicked off its Summer Film Institute, in which filmmaker and artist Missy Whiteman teaches kids to produce a film from start to finish in just one week’s time. Next week, beginning July 17 at 9:30 a.m., Intermedia hosts the Summer Graffiti Institute, a total immersion in this art form with graffiti artist Peyton.
“We don’t anticipate that we will be changing programming,” said Bokamba, noting that the new fiscal year started July 1. “We want to give ourselves a little bit of time to lean into that, and couple this with strategic planning as well. We have to deal with the changes that have been made.”