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With no home and a leadership change, art museum in St. Paul temporarily closing

Facing eviction from the Ramsey County Government Center (the former West Publishing Building on Kellogg Boulevard), the Minnesota Museum of American Art will close in January.

It’s meant to be a temporary closing, until museum officials can come up with a new plan.

The museum has a permanent collection of about 3,500 objects by American artists, including paintings, sculpture, photographs and other works from the 19th century to the present. It focuses on Minnesota and local artists.

It had been located in the art deco Jemne Building near City Hall, before moving in the mid-1990s to Landmark Center. From there, it moved into the old West Publishing garages on St. Paul’s riverfront.

Here’s the announcement museum officials sent out today:

The Minnesota Museum of American Art (MMAA) must move from its current location in the Ramsey County Government Center, which is slated for redevelopment next year. In addition, MMAA is in the midst of a leadership transition. Those facts, coupled with the current economic climate and past budget deficits, have led to financial challenges.

Given the leadership transition, the imminent need to move mid-year 2009, and the current financial situation, the MMAA board of trustees decided to close the Museum’s public exhibition space temporarily while they finalize their new strategic plan, realign resources to better meet their mission, and mount a coordinated fund development campaign that will adequately fuel the museum’s future.

In September, the board used the transition as an opportunity to look deeply at the museum and commissioned an independent organizational assessment, said David Kelly, MMAA board chair.

The assessment provided objective information that allowed the board to reflect on the museum’s mission, programs and operations and is being used to plan for our future and strengthen the institution.”

The board is committed to MMAA’s future success and will ensure excellent stewardship of all resources and accountability for results.

“MMAA is not going away,” Kelly said. “We are building a bridge to the future, and we will work to increase the trust and respect of our funders, members, donors, colleagues and the greater St. Paul community.””

The next steps in the transition include the following elements of the board’s emergent vision:

• The museum is temporarily closing its public exhibition space as of Sunday, January 4, 2009, and reducing its staff, accordingly.

• MMAA will retain qualified professional staff to safeguard, preserve and exhibit the collection.

• During the transition, MMAA will seek venues to allow ongoing public exhibitions of its extensive collection of American art.

• The board is completing a plan to guide the transition and search for a dynamic new leader for the museum.

• The board will engage museum members and other key stakeholders such as community and civic leaders, collectors, artists, professionals in the arts community, educators, donors and other decision-makers to garner ongoing input and guidance as it reinvigorates its mission and programs.

“Preserving MMAA will take strong dedication and partnership from our community and a firm belief in MMAA’s value to St. Paul and the greater the Twin Cities area,” Kelly said. “The Museum needs solid community support, both financially and influentially, to build a lasting legacy for future generations.”

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