Intermedia Arts to sell building

The financially troubled organization laid off staff in September

After laying off staff in September, Intermedia Arts plans to move ahead with the sale of its Lyndale Avenue building. File photo
After laying off staff in September, Intermedia Arts plans to move ahead with the sale of its Lyndale Avenue building. File photo

After laying off all staff members in September, Intermedia Arts now plans to move ahead with the sale of its landmark building on the 2800 block of Lyndale Avenue.

The sale is the only way to meet “significant outstanding obligations,” the non-profit arts organization’s co-president, Omar Akbar, wrote in an Oct. 24 email announcing the plan. Akbar added that the organization was able to fulfill its “top priority” during the financial crisis and recently issued final paychecks to the salaried and hourly workers who were laid off Sept. 29.

“Beyond payroll, Intermedia has additional outstanding obligations that leave us with no choice other than to move forward with the sale of our building,” he wrote. “We understand the magnitude of this decision and are committed to a process that mirrors the mission of Intermedia.”

The Intermedia Arts building is recognizable for the ever-changing work by graffiti and mural artists decorating its facade.

For now, the organization plans to continue offering its programming. Akbar’s email stated that announcements on programming would be made in the coming weeks.

He also pledged to “engage with the community to both listen and share information” when the building is ready for listing.

The property is zoned C3A, a community activity center district, allowing for a variety of commercial and residential uses, including multi-unit housing. Construction up to four stories is allowed by right in the C3A district, but a new building could be taller with city approval.

Founded by University of Minnesota students in 1973 as University Community Video, the organization changed its name to Intermedia Arts in the 1980s, reflecting an expansion of its mission into music, performance and the visual arts. The organization purchased the former Bee-Line Automotive Building at 2822 Lyndale Ave. in 1994.

Intermedia Arts weathered at least one other financial crisis in 2008, when grants from foundations and corporations were slashed in the midst of the Great Recession. The organization temporarily closed galleries, laid-off staff and rented its space to two nearby congregations. In 2009, Intermedia merged with Phillips Community Television.

Under the leadership of former executive director Theresa Sweetland, who now heads St. Paul-based nonprofit Forecast Public Art, the organization recovered in less than two years. It ended the 2010 fiscal year with a budget surplus.

Sweetland left in 2015, and in early 2016 Intermedia announced the hiring of a new executive director, Eyenga Bokamba.

Here is the full text of Akbar’s announcement:

I’m writing to share the latest information from Intermedia Arts:

Over the past few weeks, Intermedia’s board of directors has heard from many individual artists for whom Intermedia is home and from many organizations that have relied on Intermedia to deliver their mission and programming. As the organization’s volunteer board, it is our duty to act in accordance with the mission of Intermedia, and therefore it matters deeply to us that we stay in conversation with our community.

We have spent dozens of hours with financial advisors and funders discussing how to address our significant outstanding obligations. During this difficult time, we are particularly grateful for the support of our longstanding funders, The McKnight Foundation and Bush Foundation.

Today, we were able to deliver on our first priority by paying salaried and hourly staff members for their final pay period. Suffice it to say, we are grateful to these individuals for their dedication to Intermedia and their patience over the past few weeks.

Beyond payroll, Intermedia has additional outstanding obligations that leave us with no choice other than to move forward with the sale of our building. We understand the magnitude of this decision and are committed to a process that mirrors the mission of Intermedia.

In the coming weeks, we will secure advisers for the sale of the building. As soon as the building is ready for listing, we will engage with the community to both listen and share information.

As we prepare to list the building, we are working on alternatives to deliver Intermedia’s key programs. This is a work in progress; we promise to make announcements as soon as decisions are made regarding these programs.

Thanks for your continued interest in Intermedia. We will stay in touch. I can make myself available in the afternoon today. I’m traveling for the remainder of the week starting tomorrow but will make myself available whenever possible.  

 

Sincerely,

Omar Akbar (Co-President, Intermedia Arts)

  • Michael Gray

    (From a SWJ article dated January 2016) “The picture that I’m seeing is an organization that is deeply solvent and that is committed, that’s strong, that’s had great leadership and that is at a place to thrive,” Bokamba said.

    -What a travesty. This is a really huge loss for our city. What in the world really happened? It went from deeply solvent to bankrupt – in less than two years???

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