Slammed by economy, Minneapolis’s Intermedia Arts to close gallery, lay off full-time staff

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For 35 years, Intermedia Arts has focused on working to “build understanding among people through art,” cosponsoring everything from the B-Girl Be festival of women in hip-hop and exhibitions by artists in its Lyndale Avenue neighborhood to the annual Art Car Parade and last year’s series of creative responses to the Republican National Convention called The UnConvention. Its building, covered by an ever-changing mural that mixed realistic, abstract and graffiti-style paintings, telegraphed its dextrous, community-oriented mission. But according to its Web site, Intermedia Arts has been hit especially hard by the economic downturn: next month, it’s laying off all full-time staff and closing its gallery.

“It’s huge. It’s fast. It’s dramatic,” reads a message on the group’s web site. “But we—our staff, our board, our artists, partners, and funders—all of us, are absolutely committed to ensuring the future of Intermedia Arts.”

While the organization has survived largely on philanthropic giving from individuals and foundations, it’s now turning to its community to seek help in securing its future. It’s seeking input and moral support at the Intermedia Arts Community Town Hall: Rally the People! at 5:30 pm on Friday, December 19th, and it’s looking for donations.

The news highlights how the troubled economy has proven disastrous for arts organizations, which rely both on philanthropy and the entertainment dollars of supporters who are likewise doing belt-tightening of their own. Last month, the Minnesota Museum of American Art in St. Paul, long struggling with budget deficits, announced it’d be closing temporarily. And last summer, Theater de la Jeune Lune, sinking more than a million dollars in debt, closed its space in Minneapolis’s warehouse district.