A financial crisis has forced Intermedia Arts, a mainstay of the Minneapolis scene for 44 years, to lay off its entire staff and freeze operations.

Intermedia officials said Thursday they are declaring a 45-day "time out" and inviting key stakeholders of the multipurpose arts venue to help determine its future.

That might include a sale of the organization's home at 2822 Lyndale Av. S., in the now-hot Lyn-Lake neighborhood. Purchased in 1994, the property has a mortgage "under half-a-million dollars," officials said, and it is worth considerably more.

"It's been a traumatic and difficult month or so for everyone here, and the situation is fluid," said board co-chair Omar Akbar. "We'll do our best to meet our commitments and our mission in the short run. The long-term mission of this organization depends on many stakeholders, from our funders to the community."

Popular with poets, painters, actors, dancers and activists, Intermedia serves about 25,000 people annually with its public programs. It partners with about 70 community organizations, offers leadership training, and provides a haven for underrepresented and vulnerable populations.

Recent programs include an Arab-American film festival; the "Up & Out" showcase for transgender and queer young people; and hip-hop and spoken-word events.

"This place is a vibrant heartbeat of the performing and visual arts community, and we have to come together to figure out a way to keep it around so that it can serve a new generation of artists," said filmmaker and theater artist E.G. Bailey. "So many of us were nurtured there."

Some programs to continue

Intermedia hopes to continue much of its scheduled programming for the next two months, which includes a reception Thursday for "Festival de las Calaveras," a Day of the Dead-themed art show.

But Friday will be the final day of work for 11 staff members, including Executive Director Eyenga Bokamba, who joined the organization in January 2016.

Intermedia already had laid off two full-time staffers in July to trim its budget by about $200,000.

The nonprofit organization, which has a $1.4 million annual budget, would not disclose details of its financial difficulties but acknowledged that it had accumulated a significant debt in the past couple of years.

Bokamba did not respond to interview requests.

The freeze in operations was finalized Wednesday at a meeting of Intermedia's seven-member board of directors.

"We have significant debts and limited general operating funds," said Akbar. "That's a very difficult situation to be in for any organization."

Intermedia is now conferring with its funders, auditors and banker, according to an internal document shared with the Star Tribune.

"We believe that the long-term solution involves a radical reimagining of how we support our operations, staff, programming and our building," the document says. "We believe that this involves a combination of strategic and business planning, a reinvestment in our infrastructure, and forming deeper organizational partnerships in which we can create a broader base of financial and community support."

Questions raised

The venue's board has gone through changes in the past year. The former chair, Andrea Jenkins, left earlier this year to run for a seat on the Minneapolis City Council, while another member recently resigned for undisclosed reasons.

Concerns about the organization were raised in a Sept. 24 letter to board members and staff by Julie Bates MacGillis, a longtime staff member who was laid off this summer and served as interim executive director before Bokamba's hiring.

In the wake of a fiscal crisis in 2008, Intermedia had achieved financial stability and even established a reserve fund, MacGillis said. But more recently, she said, the organization increased its spending by hundreds of thousands of dollars without securing the money to pay for it.

In July, Bokamba said the $1.4 million budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 included about $250,000 in general operating funds from the Minnesota State Arts Board, $750,000 from private sources such as the McKnight Foundation, and a projected $400,000 from earned revenue.

"We, as a board, are going to put all our skills and efforts into making Intermedia healthy and sustainable long-term," said Akbar. "This institution is too important for us to lose."

612-673-4390 • @rohanpreston