Art museum cutting more than 20 employees

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The Indianapolis Museum of Art is laying off more than 20 employees as it looks to cut costs and lessen its reliance on its endowment, the museum announced Monday morning.

The IMA said 19 full-time workers and two part-time workers will complete their employment Monday. Eight additional vacant positions will not be filled.

The museum, under the management of new CEO Charles Venable, informed the employees of the cuts Monday morning. The staff was warned about the possibility of job eliminations earlier this year, IMA said.

“These are difficult changes, but it is imperative that we reduce our reliance on the endowment so future generations can benefit from it,” Venable said in a prepared statement. “It pains me greatly that we have to make staffing reductions at this juncture, but it was clear that they were necessary.”

Venable, who replaced Maxwell Anderson as CEO, has been restructuring the organization, including a managerial shakeup, since he arrived in October.

Plans include reducing the $22 million annual budget while boosting revenue by hosting more major, mainstream exhibitions.

More than one-third of the endowment, which was $326 million as of June 30, is earmarked for specific purposes, leaving about $203 million for operational expenses.

The IMA has been drawing close to 8 percent a year from the operating portion of its endowment. Venable wants to reduce the rate to about 5 percent so the fund can grow to previous levels. Before the recession, the endowment was almost $400 million.

A spokeswoman for the museum said Venable was not available for further comment on the layoffs.


  • More food for thought
    Derek, I agree that at this time cutting the budget may be the only answer but why after the first round of layoffs at the museum 3 1/2 years ago the endowment draw stayed at 8%. New hiring was going on, major galleries were being changed, and major exhibitions staged.As many have asked what was the board thinking especially when Max had a 500,000 defect his first year, a major donor left the board mainly because of financial concerns, and senior staff warned the Board Financial committee about pending budgetary problems. The Board I feel were not being good stewards of the IMA financial resources and after the market crash and the first major staff reducion everything should have been done to rebuild and protect the endowment. If we do not learn from our history we will repeat it. The Board needs to write and publish a letter of apology for their lack proper stewardship to the members and staff who are paying for it.
  • Let them eat cake
    People read these comments and think they are from disgruntled employees. When Max was there the paranoid higher ups would talk about how it was always an employee or former employee with an axe to grind. What everyone fails to acknowledge is that you have a few fat cats who are thriving and want to see it continue at any cost. And that meant firing many devoted staff. How much money are they truly saving by eliminating less than 30 positions? How much is the average annual salary of all the directors and department heads in comparison? Many people who were are still there are not there for the arts. Those fired had been there for years at low paying salaries because the loved the arts. I say shame on the board for not supporting the IMA and shame on the admin for not taking pay cuts to help the poorly compensated staff you just laid off. Don't ask me to renew my membership.
  • Businesses are like people...
    I cringed when I read this article realizing so many good, talented people would be laid off. But at the end of the day, the IMA is a business, and like a person, a business has to do things to make certain it remains healthy in the long run. Eating off the endowment is a sound strategy to make sure the IMA is an empty, hollow shell in the next 10 to 15 years. No doubt, cuts like these sting, and I'm certain Charles Venable took no pleasure in having to release over 10% of his team. The numbers speak for themselves, and while the cuts are undoubtedly regrettable, it's easy to see that they were done to make certain the IMA remains viable for their remaining employees, patrons, and guests.
    • Here they go again...
      Shame on the board! How many more times can you fire or drive out experienced staff members before you run the institution into the ground? Less experienced people doing more work for less money -- now that's a sound strategy! I thank my lucky stars every day that I got out when I did!
      • and pod
        The dow is at a record high today. This board picked both these henchmen allowed to live off the museum. All so they could continue to pay as little as possible into the institution they associate themselves with so freely at parties and the auction houses. It is despicable to allow a professional staff pay for your bad decisions. How many times did you smile for the photographer you just fired?
      • I'm shocked, shocked I say....
        If you are a sociopath and you know how to make money you go to Wall St, if you don't you go into academia. Once again loyal,dedicated people loose their jobs because those at the top can't run a business.
      • Where was the Board
        The market fell in 2008 and the board still allowed MAX to pull 8% from the endowment. The market is up to 14,000 so most of the board is likely doing well. The staff on the other hand is suffering and the museum is falling back to where it was 30 years ago. Perhaps the board should have started a major endowment campaign instead of slashing staff. Moodys downgrading the museums credit appears to be the catalyst for this cutting and the board should have seen this coming and controlled or fired Max. The 2% seems to win again.
      • Try to remember...
        This guy is playing clean-up for the mess left by Max and Jacqueline. They come to town send out the IMA X-mas card with only pictures of themselves and their family, paint antique chairs hot pink, and windle down the IMA's endowment. I feel bad that it has come to this - but the IMA board should have stepped in sooner when Max was leading the organization.
        • Sad news for Indy.
          This is very sad news for anyone who cares about the arts in Indianapolis.
        • Don't let the door...
          And Venable was nice enough to show his support of the remaining workers with a tasteless happy birthday tweet to himself: http://ow.ly/ilNyf ...and we wonder why our Arts institutions are facing such tough times...

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