Sandpoint Arts Alliance closes doors - Bonner County Daily Bee: Local News

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Sandpoint Arts Alliance closes doors

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Posted: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 10:00 am

SANDPOINT — After seven years of promoting community art, the Sandpoint Arts Alliance has closed its doors.

A local nonprofit that hosted art classes, artists in residence and more, the Arts Alliance board called it quits at the beginning of March after determining that sufficient funding simply wasn’t in place. According to former board interim president Elle Susnis, when local donations dried up, grant funding slowed to a trickle as well.

Susnis said the Arts Alliance ran a fairly tight ship with a limited amount of overhead. However, expenses like rent, utility payments, arts and office supplies and the salary of a part-time manager quickly added up.

In past years, the organization always managed to break even. This was the first year when it became apparent that local support would not be sufficient to pay the bills. Board members tried to devise an all-volunteer plan that would eliminate the paid managerial position, but with everyone else working day jobs, they couldn’t find a workable system, Susnis said.

After considering the issue, they notified their landlord that they’d be closing shop at the end of February.

“(Arts Alliance manager Carol Kovalchuk) did a great job bringing in the grants, but this year we just didn’t get enough funding,” Susnis said.

The primary problem was the relationship between grant funding and local donations, she added.

In order to qualify for most grants, organization representatives had to prove there existed sufficient local support to maintain sustainability, Susnis said.

When local funding declined, the Arts Alliance simultaneously began losing grants, which made up more than half the operational budget, she added.

Many arts organizations in town have had a difficult time since the downturn in the economy. Last year, the Pend Oreille Arts Council asked the community for increased assistance following a membership drop of around 27 percent and a corporate sponsorship decline of 48 percent.  

“It’s always about the funding,” Susnis said. “Arts in Sandpoint are always a struggle.”

Despite the disappointment, Susnis remains optimistic about the future. Many Arts Alliance personnel have already gone on to find new projects.

Susnis was recently appointed to the Sandpoint Arts Commission, while Kovalchuk is forming plans for upcoming painting classes, she said.

Meanwhile, Conversations, a gathering of artists previously linked to the Arts Alliance, continues meeting the first Thursday of every month.

In addition, Susnis said the Arts Alliance created a network of artists that will provide the groundwork should any future organization rise to take its place.

“It’s onward and upward from here,” Susnis said. “I think we know what worked and what didn’t, and we can use that for any future endeavors.”

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  • Lavina posted at 4:29 pm on Wed, Mar 26, 2014.

    Lavina Posts: 37

    I too am surprised they lasted 7 years but I think the reasons for the demise of this organization go far beyond the economy.

    As KJB noted their follow-up with former students was awful. Their website was pathetic. Promotion of classes was pretty sparse. Classes were cancelled without notifying those who were signed up. Class registrations were lost. Refunds for cancelled classes could take 8 or 9 months. Previous members and donors were not sent renewal notices.

    And, these are just things I heard about. I am guessing the management was just poor overall.

  • Steve from Sandpoint posted at 6:11 am on Wed, Mar 26, 2014.

    Steve from Sandpoint Posts: 71

    I'm surprised that they lasted 7 years, with the downturn in the economy. Donations are a hard way to rely on for paying the rent. Parks & Rec. has no spare money, just ask Kim Woodruff !

  • Here's What I Say posted at 12:47 pm on Tue, Mar 25, 2014.

    Here's What I Say Posts: 1240

    In these difficult times in a "right to work" state, people have found that local wages don't quite cover housing, food, insurance, the ever rising costs of utilities for all things. The local government takes a cut of everything we spend, state even taxes food, etc.. Sadly, money for other well-meaning organizations dries up. That's the reality of life. I'm glad I'm retired, but I hardly have any income. Were it not for SS and a tiny pension, I'd starve. I'd love to take art classes, but can't afford it.

  • RichardD posted at 10:59 am on Tue, Mar 25, 2014.

    RichardD Posts: 2922

    I'd like to know just how much money we are talking here. What was the amount of their operations budget ?

  • KJB posted at 10:28 am on Tue, Mar 25, 2014.

    KJB Posts: 526

    Sadly, there were some great classes offered, but no follow-up for new students after a class was taken. Could've been a lot of return students, if there had been some way to build a database of students and keep them informed about classes. After my child took one course, we never heard from the Arts Alliance again. I am sure a lot of it had to do with resources, but a good database of previous students would have helped build class participation and income. I didn't really have the time or inclination to constantly check the website for new classes offered to see if any interested my child.

    I also know there had been a problem with flakey instructors and class cancellations.

    So sad to see them close their doors, but hopeful someone with a little more business sense takes up the charge and finds a way to offer art classes again...what about a partnership with the Sandpoint Parks & Rec? When I was a kid our local Parks & Rec had a variety of activities available...not just sports. Art and drama were included. Just a thought...