In sad, but not surprising news The Minnesota Museum of American Art (MMAA) in St. Paul, Minnesota announced Friday that it is “temporarily closing its public exhibition space as of Sunday, January 4, 2009, and reducing its staff, accordingly.” The MMAA has been in transition since director Bruce Lilly resigned last summer after 11 years as head of the museum. Coupled with the loss of its current space to redevelopment in mid 2009 and the current economic climate, the decision was made to close the MMAA indefinitely. The situation for the MMAA is more complicated than a typically gallery closing due to its large collection. Staff will be retained to manage the collection while the museum is assessing its options. Hopefully a new home and sources of support can be found for the MMAA in the near future, but the closing of its doors, even temporarily, is a foreboding indication of current options.
This is the second mid-level art organizations to close its doors in the last few months. The Minnesota Center for Photography closed abruptly at the end of July citing the downturn in the economy as a contributing factor. I fear it won’t be the last. In the present economy most arts organizations will be forced to trim budgets while still trying to maintain the same quanity and quality of programming. On a positive note, tough times can also lead to a re-evaluation and refinement of current programing to better serve audiences. It could also be a time of opportunity for local artists. Museums, galleries, and arts organizations may turn to more local artists to fill exhibitions as travel and transportation costs rise for national and international exhibitions. It will be an anxious year for many organizations as they await funding from fellowships, grants and corporate sponsors. Hopefully most organizations will be able to adapt to the economic challanges in the coming year so that situations like MCP and MMAA becomes the exception instead of the trend.