More reasons to be sad: Major cuts and layoffs at Mia, Walker Art Center, and MNHS

Bike Night at the Mia

Bike Night at the Mia Minneapolis Institute of Art

In the age of coronavirus, Twin Cities restaurants have already taken a major hit, with recent closings including the Herkimer and Fuji-Ya just last week. Now, it’s time for a spate of bad news from the arts community.

Yesterday, Walker Art Center sent out a release confirming that the modern art museum would be reopening on July 16. But the time they spent closed has already taken its toll, as layoffs, reduced programming, and reduced hours will be necessary to keep things going.

“I am sad to have to share that as of July 1, we will be laying off a total of 15 part-time staff between the Walker shop and visitor services, and 18 part-time gallery assistants,” says executive director Mary Ceruti. 

According to the release, they are expecting a “$5.7 million drop in revenue or the equivalent of 26% of last year’s operating budget.” In addition to reduced staff, the museum will be dipping into reserve funds, and the remaining senior staffers are also facing pay cuts. 

The Minneapolis Institute of Art has not fared much better, announcing on Monday that 39 jobs had been cut from its staff of 250.

“Few decisions are harder than one that involves reducing our dedicated staff,” said Mia president Katie Luber via release. “We are deeply saddened by this very difficult situation.” 

Mia has already cut its projected operating budget from $34 million to $30 million. Leaders at the museum had already taken a 15% pay cut. However, some staffers felt that this was not enough, as a petition, signed “concerned Mia employees,” had asked for bigger pay cuts at the presidential/executive level and greater financial transparency earlier this month.

“Considering [leadership’s] exorbitant salaries, and the wealth that the leadership team has amassed throughout the years, it’s hard to call the proposed layoffs to staff as anything other than inherently regressive,” the page states. “We also have serious concerns about the impact layoffs will have on Mia’s already meager staff diversity, considering most BIPOC staff at Mia are in non-managerial and grant-funded roles.”

The online petition cites the museum's highest paid positions as ranging from $165,540 to $730,063. 

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Historical Society has had to make sweeping changes to employment. Last week, they announced that easy to distance sites Split Rock Lighthouse and Jeffers Petroglyphs will be opening in the coming weeks. They also announced that 176 furloughed employees had been laid off, and 136 staff members have had their furloughs extended. 

The cuts will mainly impact those working at historic sites, as well as facilities that are remaining closed.