by Erica Mauter • Earlier this week, Intermedia Arts decided to hold a townhall meeting to address the financial situation within their organization and in the Twin Cities arts community in general. I attended that meeting this evening and found it to be enlightening. What I got out of this townhall is a truly compelling picture of the importance of Intermedia Arts to the Twin Cities arts community and the Twin Cities community in general, and some confidence that a dedicated organization is going to make efficient use of those dollars.
I enjoy and partake in the arts, but I’m not really enmeshed in that community, so while I know in the back of my head that arts organizations are struggling, I don’t really know the particulars. I livetweeted the event. Chuck Olsen of MNstories was streaming live. The video archive is available at mogulus.com/mnstories and will be available soon at mnstories.com. Matt Peiken from 3 Minute Egg was there; I’m sure he’ll have a snazzy produced piece up shortly as well.
The whole thing kicked off with a little performance by Ill Chemistry (that’s spoken word goddess Desdamona and beatboxer extraordinaire Carnage and OMG they have their own Wikipedia page!).
The first part of the meeting was a presentation by Board Chair Jim Farstad and the staff about how they came to where they are and what they’re doing about it.
* Intermedia Arts reformulated its 3-5 Year Plan earlier this year. Part of the plan was to reduce dependence on major donors. The unexpected dropoff in funding through the course of the year forced them to turn their 3-5 Year Plan into a 3-5 Month Plan.
* They repeatedly emphasized that they’ve made choices they didn’t want to make and can make no promises. It was also abundantly clear that their staff is crazy dedicated and working their asses off to figure things out and make things happen, and that there’s a lot of respect amongst all members of the organization.
* Programs that are already funded will continue. Everything planned to take place in the building between now and January 9 will go on as planned. Programs that are not dependent on the building itself will continue.
* They expressed a commitment to transparency through this process. This hopefully will include making specific requests, possibly on the website, for time/money/talents that they need.
So their specific request to those of us present was to donate $10, to ask 10 friends to donate $10, and to ask those friends to ask their friends. Further, they are actively soliciting rentals of their space; if you’re planning an event, hold it at Intermedia Arts! If you are interested in holding your own fundraiser, contact them and they will work with you.
That was followed by a short break for pancakes and beer (no lie!). While a lot of people filed out of the theater back to the lobby for mingling and refreshments, members and interested parties in B-Girl Be met to discuss the fate of that program specifically.
The second part of the meeting was a chance for attendees to make supportive and/or critical statements and ask questions of the board and staff. This was kept short and sweet.
* The general sentiments expressed were acknowledging the importance of the work Intermedia Arts does and the need to haul some ass and ask everyone know they know for time, money, and talents.
* Their priorities for funds raised are (in no particular order) to reduce the debt on the building, retain staff where possible, increase usage of the space (rentals, and shared space with other orgs), build up an emergency fund, and to make improvements to the building because they currently spend twice as much on utilities as they do on the mortgage.
* Talks with the city of Minneapolis have been positive so far. The city assisted (or allowed? I’m not sure how that works exactly) them to restructure their mortgage. They also have an upcoming meeting with Mayor Rybak.
I’ve never donated to an arts organization that I wasn’t personally involved in, aside from paying to attend a performance. And I practically never have cash on me. It so happens that I did have cash today and I felt strongly that my donation was well worth it.