Monday, March 02, 2009

Economic Adjustments at the IMA

Well, I'm sure that a majority of the artists and arts organizaitons in Indy have been hit hard by the present economic downturn. I have been searching for a employment now for nearly 5 months and have had to move out of my art studio due to a lack of finance. This I am sure is no different from a lot of our readers, in some respects or another. Well, now we can see that it has impacted the IMA as well. Below is the latest press release, explaining their current situation and how they plan to confront the situation while still keeping the museums mission at the forefront. While possibly the most noticeable change being the postponement of the grand opening of the Virginia Fairbanks Art and Nature Park (now slated to open in Spring 2010), let us hope that the economy makes a fairly swift come back so that these changes will last as short as possible. And I tip my hat to the senior staff for their donations to help offset the costs of keeping the museum operating.

Indianapolis Museum of Art Initiates Mission-focused

Budget Reductions and Staff Restructuring

 Free general admission policy to continue; 

changes reflect a 10% reduction in personnel and 

a 15% reduction in operating expenses

 Director and senior staff donate 3% of their salaries to IMA

Indianapolis, February 27, 2009—The Indianapolis Museum of Art announced today a strategic restructuring that includes a 10% reduction in personnel and a 15% reduction in operating expenses. These changes were triggered by the drop in the value of the IMA’s endowment from $382 million to $281 million since the fall of 2008 and follow $1.7 million of in-year cuts to the operating budget that were announced in January 2009. Trends in endowment figures since September 2007 can be found on the IMA Dashboard

For its fiscal year beginning July 1, 2009, the IMA projects an operating budget of $25.5 million; this is a net reduction of $2.5 million from the IMA’s budget of $28.1 million for 2008-2009. Despite the tough economy, the IMA, which attracts close to 500,000 visitors annually, will continue to offer free general admission. The restructuring will lead to some strategic programming changes, but it will not impact the overall experience of visiting the IMA.

“I am confident that these changes will allow the IMA to operate efficiently while pursuing its core mission. As we continue the commemoration of our 125th anniversary, we know that in past times of hardship, careful planning and restraint helped the IMA emerge as a stronger institution,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, The Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO of the IMA. “At the same time, it is with great regret that we see many talented individuals leave the Museum,” he added.  

The IMA is spreading the cuts across departments including curatorial, conservation, registration, education, development, events, public affairs, buildings, museum information systems, environmental and historic preservation, retail and protection services. Fifteen full-time positions and six part-time positions are being eliminated. Six full-time vacant positions will not be filled, and the Museum will reduce its reliance on seasonal employees who help maintain the gardens and grounds. The IMA is providing severance packages and outplacement services to those affected by the restructuring.

In recognition of the complex financial challenges the Museum faces, 10 IMA senior staff members including the director and CEO, senior curators and top administrators have volunteered to make donations to the Museum equivalent to 3% of their salaries.

The IMA relies on its endowment to fund approximately 70% of its operating budget, and though the IMA’s investments have performed well ahead of the broader market, immediate adjustments are necessary in recognition of the endowment’s loss of more than $100 million from its value at the beginning of 2008. Other revenue sources including membership, individual giving, foundation support, corporate support and retail sales have remained steady, but in many cases, individuals and foundations that support the IMA have faced similar losses in their investment portfolios. The IMA receives less than 1% of its budget from local and state government. Though minimal, the government support the IMA does receive is likely to be reduced. Possible declines in endowment and contributed and earned income may cause the Museum to make further reductions in the coming months.

The restructuring addresses an increasingly globalized museum landscape, and involves management changes as well as staff reductions. A newly formed team of four senior IMA curators will play a leading role in institutional decision-making related to the stewardship of the Museum’s collections. Their review will result in fresh strategies for collecting and displaying the art of every culture represented at the IMA, taking into account evolving international legislation and increased sensitivity to the complexities of protecting cultural heritage from non-Western nations, as well as the myriad challenges of collecting and representing the visual traditions of the 21st century from around the world. This new curatorial team will complement four existing cross-departmental task forces that develop ongoing recommendations concerning institutional evaluation, strategic planning, budgeting and professional development.

The decisions announced today follow the January 2009 announcement of budget reductions totaling $1.7 million for 2008-2009. A museum-wide salary freeze and a hiring “frost”—meaning that only very exceptionally and strategically will new hires take place—are still in effect. The Museum will continue as planned with its two special exhibitions in 2009European Design Since 1985: Shaping the New Century and Sacred Spain: Art and Belief in the Spanish World. As previously announced, the Museum has rescheduled the opening of 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park for Spring 2010. 

In addition, the IMA will move forward with previously announced projects central to its mission, including integration into the Museum’s collections of Miller House and Garden in Columbus, Ind., and the creation of a conservation science laboratory on the Museum’s premises.

“Even though we are facing tough choices right now, it is important that we invest in the future so that the IMA can continue to provide an enriching and vibrant museum experience. We will continue our leadership role in ethical, innovative and transparent professional practices. We will redouble our efforts to serve our community with free general admission, an oasis of new ideas, a sense of responsibility for the world’s cultural inheritance and a commitment to lifelong learning,” stated Anderson.

12 Responses to “Economic Adjustments at the IMA”

Anonymous said...
March 3, 2009 at 8:03 AM

The way things are shaping up, the government appears to be redefining the country's, and the world's for that matter, economic landscape. I don't think we'll be able to deternime what is "normal" in the economy for at least a generation or two. Things are really going to change, which is what the country voted for. I fear that art will not be high on the priority list while all of this shakes out.

Anonymous said...
March 4, 2009 at 10:10 PM

This Person must be an living in a box. The decline started in 2000 with bush and his cronies.

Anonymous said...
March 5, 2009 at 8:42 AM

Congress was controlled by the Democrats for the last two years of Bush's presidency. They could have turned things around but they didn't. And here's a dirty little secret, the Democrats in Congress voted for all of Bush's spending. Another dirty little secret is that most of the Wall Street bozos that brought our credit system to its knees were big and huge Democrat contributors. And I won't even get into what Mr. Raines caused.

Blind partisan politics is going to the the death of our country. If we all turn into useful idiots for either side we are in big trouble.

Anonymous said...
March 5, 2009 at 12:10 PM

Has anyone seen the design store? Its an insult to keep something like that open. People are struggling to find jobs and feed their families....I mean $400-500 for a plastic chair?! Thanks, I'll go to Target.....

Scott said...
March 5, 2009 at 3:39 PM

I have been to the design store and while a large portion of their goods are out of my price range, then again so is Target, I am a bit off put by your stance. I am one of those who has been searching for a employment for 5+ months but it is that sort of thinking that makes things even harder for artists. Whether we want to believe it or not, some people have not been effected by the current state of the economy. Some peoples finances are just fine. Why should they be limited in their choice of "chair" or other goods simply because the economy is bad. What the economy needs is people ready and willing to spend their money. While it is easy to say you can simply buy a chair at Target or IKEA for $30+ those goods are often mass produced and lacking in quality. Why should people buy a painting when they can go out and buy a poster for a fraction of the cost? I only hope that people will realize why artists and designers works cost what they do. There is often this bad habit of people looking down at artists as a profession. They feel that art is nothing more than a luxury and art is nothing more than an elaborate hobby. Artists must eat, pay their mortgages, support their families, pay insurance, pay taxes just like everyone else. All these expenses find their way into the cost of a price of work. I for one love antique furniture over the run of the mill furniture you find at department stores and the like. Not because it is old but the pieces are typically made from quality materials and the craftsmanship is often superb. This is what quality design should embrace. While we can agree that certain high design items are not aesthetically pleasing and the quality in craftsmanship can vary, I do think we need to support independent designers and artists over mass produced corporate byproducts. Just my thoughts...

ArtistDan said...
March 6, 2009 at 4:03 PM

Well written, Scott. I can't imagine buying artwork from a furniture store or a poster shop. The "artist as a way of life" in me also wants to support places like locally owned restaurants vs. franchises. Creativity and entrepreneurship can come in all ranges of prices and quality. Something for everyone by being aware.

Anonymous said...
March 7, 2009 at 1:01 PM

I bet that everyone who has commented
has not bought any art in years,
Republican, Democrat or Libetarian.
That is where the blame lies,
not politics.
Art is supported you and you alone.

Scott said...
March 7, 2009 at 6:01 PM

Well, in the past two years I have bought 5 art works by three different artists. 1 painting, 1 drawing, and 3 small watercolors. I may in fact be forgetting something. Baby-steps. I am certainly on a budget.

Anonymous said...
March 9, 2009 at 5:02 PM

I bet that everyone who has commented has not bought any art in years.

I'd bet that you are incorrect.

Anonymous said...
March 10, 2009 at 12:36 PM

Great that you have bought a tiny amount of art from some artist. Now Those artist you bought from get your friends and other to buy thier work.
Just by being on a budget reduction dosen't mean you have to stop at buying.
I still think politics are not to blame.
Sorry about the accusation about no one buying Art.

Lori said...
March 10, 2009 at 5:11 PM

Sometimes I hate the notion that the big problem with our art scene is that "no one buys art". Is this really the big answer? We make ourselves sound like some social organization who deserves support based on need rather than merit.

I'm going to throw out a few unpopular ideas:
Maybe Indiana itself is too politically conservative to ever be a thriving market.
Maybe people ARE buying art, but they're buying better art in other markets.
Maybe, first, our demands should be for better artwork, better art criticism, and more selective exhibition spaces that actually CURATE their exhibitions rather than just inviting friends.

Go ahead and send me some hate...but I think I'm telling the truth. Guilting people into buying local art ain't gonna fix the problem, it just feeds the image of local artists as substandard.

Scott said...
March 11, 2009 at 2:15 AM


I do think that there is an actual lack of a core art buyer/collector base in Indy but that is only a part of the issue we face here. I think you hit the nail on the head concerning a need for higher demand for better art, criticism and curation of exhibitions. And I think you are probably correct that there is a good chance that a segment of the art buying/collector crowd is buying art outside of Indy, whether in NY, Chicago or Art Basel Miami. People will go where they need to go to buy the works they really want. So I actually agree that we shouldn't call for people to buy local art simply because it is local but lets show these people that there is some quality art to be seen and purchased in Indy. It is our responsibility as artists, curators and the like to raise our own bar and present a quality experience and/or product to the public.

I may be on the disagreeing side concerning the idea that Indiana is merely too politically conservative to have a thriving market. You may in fact be right but Indianapolis, in itself is quite different than the rest of the state and I do not, yet, quite buy into the idea that peoples political views impact their purchasing habits.

Hopefully this survey we are conducing will shed more light on some of these issues. Lets do what we can to fix the problem and make the scene we want.

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