Walker Art Center balanced its books for the 39th consecutive year despite a pandemic shutdown.

Its annual report shows a surplus of $11,295 on an operating budget of $18.3 million for the fiscal year ended June 30, down $2.7 million from fiscal 2019. Helping the Walker stay in the black was $1.47 million in federal Payroll Protection Program funding, which enabled it to pay employees through the end of June.

"We dropped about $5 million to $6 million from revenue that we were anticipating," said executive director Mary Ceruti. "It was offset to a large degree by the fact that we were closed and then we weren't doing live, on-site programming, so we weren't spending that much either."

The Walker shut its doors on March 13 and did not reopen until early July. Consequently, there was a big drop in earned income from its programs, to $1.2 million from $2.6 million the previous year. Similarly, income from museum admissions, gift shops, food service and rentals dropped to $1.5 million from $2.2 million.

The Walker laid off 33 part-timers right after the end of the fiscal year. Ceruti said the layoffs were not aimed at balancing the budget, but rather a response to cuts in programming and operating hours, and limits on museum capacity.

The Minneapolis nonprofit did not dip as heavily into its endowment last year, drawing only $5.4 million, 18% less than the previous year. The Walker also earned more on its Avant Garden fundraising gala, bringing in a record $1.3 million.

The pandemic really halted a year when "a lot of things were going really, really well," said Ceruti.

Looking ahead

The coming fiscal year will be a challenge for the Walker along with other arts organizations. Ceruti said the budget is down more than 22%. The Walker has already called off next summer's edition of its Rock the Garden music festival.

Senior leadership took a 10% pay cut while Ceruti took 20%. Employees took a 1 percentage-point reduction in contributions to their 403(b) plans.

"We are able to manage on this reduced budget. ... We are hanging in there," she said. "The impact of the pandemic, and the economic fallout from that, is really a dire situation for the cultural sector."

Last week, AFSCME Council 5, a union of more than 43,000 working Minnesotans, announced that the Walker Art Center workers successfully won voluntary union recognition after a year of organizing. The union includes 63 of the Walker's current 157 employees, including gallery assistants, nonsupervisory visitor experience team members, educators and the design and marketing team. Curators and senior leadership are not involved.

Ceruti said she welcomes the union and is "anticipating a partnership."

"It's not even 18 months into my tenure," said Ceruti. "We welcomed a new chief curator, the senior curator of film/video retired, a lot happened. It feels like it was so long ago. It feels like a lifetime ago."

@AliciaEler • 612-673-4437