Center for the Arts to stay open after outpouring of support |

Center for the Arts to stay open after outpouring of support

Canvases at Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts' 2016 6x6 exhibit
Post Independent file

The financially struggling Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts announced Thursday that it will remain open, albeit with scaled-back operations, after receiving a boost in community support.

The art center’s board president, Kate McRaith, estimated the financial contributions amounted to about $1,500. But she emphasized the nonmonetary contributions that have been helping the art center. Individuals and business around the community have donated food, services and time, both for this weekend’s Dancers Dancing event and for a fundraiser scheduled for June.

This follows the art center’s announcement last month that it would close its doors following the event Dancers Dancing if the nonprofit did not receive significant funding support. In early April the organization’s executive director, Christina Brusig, abruptly resigned, and a police investigation into the art center’s finances began days later.

Few details about that investigation are available as it is ongoing.

McRaith said she had heard no update on the police investigation or when it might conclude. “And believe me, we want to know.”

Glenwood Lt. Bill Kimminau said investigators are waiting for a forensic audit to be completed.

On Tuesday the art center’s board voted to keep the center open after receiving “incredible support from the community,” according to a Thursday press release.

“The impression we’ve received is that most of the community supports and wants to see the art center continue,” McRaith said later in the day.

“The board will aggressively fundraise during this time of limited operations and will work with Peter Gilbert, executive director of Dance Initiative, and Betsy Suerth, former administrator and operations director for the towns of Basalt and Silt and for Garfield County, on a volunteer basis to create short- and long-term plans to restructure and make the center financially viable once again,” the release said.

The art center still needs $75,000 to pay its employees and vendors and to “start fresh,” while the board is also developing plans to outline for the community how the art center will operate in the future.

These recent contributions alone aren’t keeping the nonprofit in business. The doors will remain open because of a hard look at the center’s operations to find places to cut back to a bare minimum. The board plans to cut costs after Fifth Day classes conclude at the end of May.

This will include keeping utility expenses as low as possible, cutting the hours of the assistant director, the last remaining full-time employee, to part time and having instructors contract directly with students’ families.

“Some art center teachers have decided to continue classes as normal by renting space from the art center and contracting directly with students and families,” the board’s press release reads. “More details on this arrangement will be shared when contracts are finalized.”
Teachers were already working as independent contractors, and that structure will ensure that they get paid by removing the art center as the middleman. To cover the utility payments, instructors will pay rent on the space they use. But the board is trying to keep that as small as possible, perhaps $20 per hour, but maybe less, McRaith said. She emphasized that this would be a temporary solution, something like how Carbondale’s The Launchpad operates.

She also stressed that these rent payments would not be for the art center to make money, but to keep the lights on and the water and trash functioning: the minimal amount to keep the building operational. McRaith said these cuts would save the art center thousands of dollars, though she couldn’t pin that number down exactly. The art center’s first financial priority is to keep the building open, she said. The second priority is getting teachers paid, but that’s not currently a possibility.

The short-term plan is to operate in this limited fashion to keep classes running through the normal summer program period. But this is news to the teachers, so McRaith wasn’t immediately sure what summer programs will continue. That will depend on which instructors stay on board.

That will likely become clear during the next week. If summer programs are canceled that students already signed up for, the art center will be able to refund those students, said McRaith.

Optimistic about the board’s ability to pull the art center out of its financial chaos, McRaith said, “We’re working on a rebirth plan.”

Soon after the art center board announced that the facility would close without a significant infusion of money, the city of Glenwood Springs announced that it was cutting off funding, distancing itself from the nonprofit in the middle of a police investigation.

The art center board has a meeting with the city of Glenwood Springs later this month, and McRaith hopes that having a solid financial plan will help get the city back on board for funding.

“The board never wanted to close the art center,” she said. “Now that we’ve shared with the community exactly what we need to stay open, we’ve seen an incredible outpouring of support. We believe this new, temporary plan will allow the center to keep providing opportunities to create and enjoy the arts without incurring even more debt. We do still need significant financial support from donors to pay off the debt the center already has, but we’re hopeful that once we’re able to present a solid plan to the community for how we will move forward, that financial support will materialize.”

“Glenwood values this art center, and I’m inspired and energized by the support we’re already seeing,” McRaith said. “We’re working hard to keep the energy up and make sure we have plans in place that will give the community faith in the center. We believe in the center’s mission, and we aren’t giving up on it.”

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