Walker Art Center balanced its books for the 38th consecutive year in a period marked by a lean budget.
Its annual report, released Thursday, shows a surplus of $16,000 on an operating budget of $21 million for the fiscal year ended June 30. That budget was down $1.8 million from fiscal 2018, but largely due to an anomaly. Because of scheduling issues, the previous year included both the 2017 and 2018 editions of the Walker's summer fundraising concert, Rock the Garden.
Consequently, there was a corresponding drop in program-earned income at the Minneapolis nonprofit. Administrative expenses were also down in fiscal 2019, as the Walker saved more than $1 million in senior leadership salaries due to vacancies in the posts of executive director, chief curator and chief operating officer.
Those vacancies contributed to the Walker's conservative spending last year, noted Mary Ceruti, who became the Walker's sixth executive director in January: "When you don't have a director, you are not making some of those major investments and decisions."
The Walker drew only $6.6 million from its endowment, 11.2% less than the previous year.
Ceruti said the numbers do not show an impact from the 2017 controversy over "Scaffold," which delayed the reopening of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and made the Walker a target for criticism.
"It is basically a flat budget from the last couple of years," she said. "I guess you could say: Could we have grown 3 percent if that stuff hadn't happened? Maybe, but I can't see a negative impact in that way."
The Walker mounted several major exhibitions during fiscal 2019, including a career retrospective of Minneapolis-based Siah Armajani, which traveled to the Met Breuer in New York, as well as the first U.S. solo museum show by Mexico City-based artist Mario García Torres.
Looking forward, Ceruti said that her interest in identifying emerging artists, as well as artists from South America, Africa and the Middle East, will continue to drive the museum.
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