MIA balances budget; craft beer for new crowds

MARY ABBE | Updated 10/9/2012

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts balanced its 2011-12 budget and is experimenting with weddings, novel exhibitions, craft beer, and Chinese warriors to lure new audiences and more money.

Not content with having balanced its $25 million operating budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year (and squeeked out a $17,000 surplus), the

Minneapolis Institute of Arts

is looking for new crowds and revenue sources in unusual places.

It plans to rent out its third-floor party room for weddings and has already booked six for the coming year said director Kaywin Feldman at a season preview lunch Tuesday. While the venture is a first for the MIA, other museums including Walker Art Center and the American Swedish Institute have successfully engaged the white-gown trade.

Attracting new audiences is also a priority at the museum which is especially eager to lure "millennials." Senior museum staff, including the director, have each been assigned a "millennial" coach to jolt them out of their usual notions about how art museums should operate. A first piece of advice from the young is to nix the whispers. Talk normally in the galleries, even introduce music, white noise or other lively sounds. Officials are debating the idea.

"Supper for Shakespeare" is the most unusual new show on the schedule. Cooked up in collaboration with culinary historian Ivan Day, it  will feature real banquet foods (mostly desserts) from the 16th and 17th-centuries. Eric Harper of St. Paul's Summit Brewery is crafting a limited-edition Tudor-style ale that will be served at a Tudor Keg Party in January. The museum's historic Tudor Room (dating to about 1600) is getting new LED lights and a sound system which artist Ethan Holbrook will test with a new sound-installation juxtaposing Shakespearian and modern audio. All this plus a food-themed show of paintings, tableware, cookbooks, food molds, kitchen utensils. (December 13 through March 31).

You can watch Ivan Day slow-roasting a joint of mystery-meat here, or check out his truly strange pulsating pudding at the bottom left of his website

But first, "China's Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor's Legacy" opens this month. The show is expected to feature 10 life-sized terracotta warriors, some of which have never traveled to the West, plus bronze vessels, jade artifacts, gold and silver ornaments, and architectural details up to 2500 years old. Political tensions and uncertainty among Chinese museum officials have delayed the show's transit schedule, said Matthew Welch, the museum's assistant director for curatorial affairs. Even so, "Warriors" is expected to open as scheduled on October 28 and to run through January 20.

Other future highlights:

"Young People's Ofrendas," a show of 60 ofrenda's designed by kids at four Minnesota schools: El Colegio Charter School (Minneapolis), Austin High School (southern Minnesota), Thomas Edison High School (Minneapolis) and Humboldt Secondary School (St. Paul). October 23 - December 2.

"More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness," featuring manipulated, twisted, fact-challenged contemporary art that blurs "notions of truth and reality." A cornicopia of contemporary hot shots and international superstars, the show includes films, videos, sculpture, paintings, etc. Organized by the MIA in conjunction with SITE Santa Fe where it debuted this summer to enthusiastic reviews. March 3 - June 9, 2013.

"For the Love of Art: Recent Gifts of Contemporary Prints and Drawings," featuring more than 70 prints, drawings and other works on paper by leading contemporary American and European talents. July 14 - September 2013.

"The Modern Face: Portraits from the Centre Pompidou, Paris" will showcase about 90 portraits by 20th century painters, sculptors and photographers ranging from Francis Bacon and Constantin Brancusi to Henri Matisse, Marlene Dumas and Andy Warhol. October 6, 2013 - January 5, 2014.