The Museum of Russian Art, in its decade-long history in South Minneapolis, has cemented its role as a conduit to Russian art, history, and culture. Membership, attendance, the number of events and exhibitions, and its organizational capacity continues to increase annually. This signifies a major goal for TMORA is already completed: it can sustain its operations because it has matured as an independently supported nonprofit with diffuse revenue streams.
This gives the organization solid ground from which to launch into its second decade with a more intentional focus on promoting Cultural Diplomacy. Events at TMORA have tripled since 2015 and exceed 96% of total capacity, and now the goal is to refine the offerings into more robust programming with articulated and defined educational outcomes.
These outcomes extend from a Strategic Plan, an considerable investment of time and resources and led by the Board of Trustees in an year-long process from December 2017 - December 2018. This strategic plan will be instrumental in guiding mission outcomes for TMORA going forward.
With a cohesive, organization-wide strategy set in 2018, the organization aims to continue maturing. A significant mortgage on the building has a plan to be retired via a capital/endowment campaign in the 3-year timeframe. Staffing "right-sizing" continues to pressure the organization.
All of the above is a pretext to the larger goals of TMORA. As the only institution in North America devoted to Russian art, history, and culture, we have a goal to reach audiences at both a local/regional level and also a national/international level as well. This means a stratification of audience needs are wound into the consideration of programs, activities, and overall strategy.
A concurrent goal in broadening access to Russian art and overall is a commitment to "accessible quality." By this we mean that the aesthetic characteristics of the art, the artist's narrative, the history surrounding the artwork, and ones relationship to those factors should be present and elevated in the Museum experience - and that, of course, the art on display should hold significant qualities of that list.
If we satisfy the two above goals in TMORA's operations while taking the necessary organizational steps iterated above, TMORA will accomplish its mission of "Education, Enlightenment, and Engagement through the Art of Russia."
Partnerships are absolutely vital to TMORA and extend into every corner of operations for the nonprofit.
This is somewhat predicated on the inherited sociopolitical environment. An embargo on the exchange of cultural artifacts at the state level has prohibited the exchange of artworks between the US and Russia since 2010. This means that the 50+ exhibitions since have been sourced through public and private partnerships, alternative routes that have yet to be charted in the post-Soviet world.
However, it has been a boon to TMORA to occupy this space, the exclusive entity on a national level in the enterprise of cultural exchange in the fine arts. Collectors nationwide plus universities and intellectual communities have taken notice, calling on TMORA (through both the Curator and the Director) to be experts and leaders in the field. Similarly, institutions in our local geography come to TMORA for all things Russia (music, film - not just visual art), leading to co-sponsoring relationships with organizations from the Minnesota Orchestra to The University of Minnesota's Adoption Medicine Clinic.
Since 2015, TMORA has doubled the number of exhibitions and tripled the number of events occurring annually in the Museum. Membership has increased by nearly 100% during this period, reflecting a significant relationship between a frequent variety of arts experiences and a personal affinity for the work of the Museum (Education, Enlightenment, and Engagement through the Art of Russia - and what better token of this is there than becoming a member?).
Thus, quantity has a quality of its own. By offering many different points of entry, incorporating a variety of living artists, programs, and activities for all ages, TMORA has become much more successful at executing its mission.
Quality has its own benefits, chief among them a sense of authenticity that can only be built through years of consistently high achievement. Curator Maria Zavialova, Ph.D., and Director Vladimir von Tsurikov, Ph.D., have developed a robust three-year process for selecting and strategically positioning exhibitions. Both are subject matter experts with vast academic and professional experience prior to TMORA, and are today considered preeminent experts in their respective fields. Their credibility completes a natural alignment of quality and exclusivity that comes with being the only major institution in North America devoted to "Education, Enlightenment, and Engagement through the Art of Russia."
After a decade of operating experience, TMORA has marshaled a diverse and abundant pool of support for executing the goals enumerated above.
Pillar support comes from distinct areas: Trustee gifts, major individual philanthropy, state funding, and grants from foundations add up to roughly $1 Million in annual contributed revenue. This figure includes contributions from more than 1600 members.
Importantly, the organization stands on its own feet with such a diverse stream of revenue (when combined with events, rentals, admissions, and the Museum store). The Museum acts independently of private interest, a vital sign for a young nonprofit.
This level of care speaks to the intentional leadership of Dr. von Tsurikov and the commitment displayed by the Board of Trustees. Their strategic deployment of resources over recent years has already accomplished tremendous goals: doubling membership, doubling exhibitions, and tripling events, while also building co-sponsoring partnerships with more than three dozen nonprofits in our region.
TMORA employs 6 full time staff and additional part time employees, and benefits from major volunteer contributions. The volunteer Outreach Coordinator Carol Rudie for example, sees 3-4 groups per week around the region, amounting to tens of thousands in any year. An additional 45 volunteers assist TMORA with everything from the front desk and museum store to the docent program and museum tours.
TMORA defines certain key metrics as indicators of success in the goals and operations set out by the strategic plan.
In short, TMORA monitors the following metrics:
- attendance numbers monthly by category (capturing age demographics e.g. child, youth, student, senior, artist)
- membership by month, with an emphasis on renewals
- public reviews and feedback on sites like Facebook and Yelp (tremendously positive, just look!)
- visitor feedback and surveys conducted periodically
- events attendance (with geographic and age demographics as available)
- number of events at full capacity (currently 96%+ of seats offered are filled overall)
- website, newsletter, and social media traffic & clicks
There are less recurring metrics of success as well that TMORA is emphasizing in the coming years. This includes:
- Reviews in the Media
- Letters of recommendation by key figures in US and Russian government
- Progress in the capital campaign/major gifts
- Increasing number of family/small foundation gifts
- Number of corporate sponsorships
Coupled with the work of the board in quarterly meetings and the work of its regularly convened committees and task forces, this overall picture ensures TMORA is on the path of making progress in its mission, "Education, Enlightenment, and Engagement through the Art of Russia."
Over the last decade, TMORA has cemented itself in the community by establishing a broad portfolio of programs and support.
$1 Million in annual contributed revenue
Over 200 artists featured per year
1500 Children impacted through programs
A Dynamite 18-member Board of Trustees
8.6 FTE staff size, 45+ Volunteers
A balanced budget!
This materially represents a growing mid-size nonprofit. We are proud of the accomplishments made so far, and see it as a building block of our presence at a national/international level. Significant financial support continues to be the top priority of all leaders within the organization.