Arts Center budget: update | Rock Candy

Arts Center budget: update

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Max posted on his Arkansas Blog yesterday my report on the Arkansas Arts Center's 2011 budget that will require its board and development team to raise $1 million more than it did last year. Find it here.

A little more fleshing out. One of the Arts Center's fund-raising plans included in the budget is a party and banners to celebrate the Arts Center's 50th anniversary. (It was Sept. 6, 1960, that the City Board passed an ordinance creating the Arts Center, though it had existed previously as the Museum of Fine Art.)

Joseph Lampo, interim director, said he thought celebrating the Arts Center's anniversary would be a way to "change the story" about the Arts Center, to counteract recent publicity about its financial woes. It would move the public's focus to its history and also be a way for the Arts Center to honor its key players.

But board members Lisa Baxter, who is heading up Tabriz, the Arts Center's biggest money-maker, next spring, and Chucki Bradbury thought the budget's forecast of making $80,000 off anniversary events was optimistic. More importantly, they opposed the idea because they thought it would reduce Tabriz income. One board member suggested the anniversary be celebrated next fall instead.

Baxter and Bradbury know a hell of a lot more about fund-raising than I'll ever know, but that's not stopping me from opining here: The Arts Center has to celebrate its 50th anniversary and it has to celebrate it big and it has to celebrate it in September. Now is the time to honor people like Jeane Hamilton — would we even have an Arts Center without her work in the 1950s to raise money and awareness? — and Townsend Wolfe and other important Arts Center supporters. People will pay to honor them and they won't be thinking about Tabriz when they do. They might even include people like me. There's a whole segment of the population that can't afford Tabriz (and might not go if they could) but who want to see the Arts Center pull itself out of the ditch. Who think it's one of the greatest things Little Rock has going for it. There has to be — how could the Arts Center survive without us?

Lampo, to appease objections he was hearing from his board, said, well, there were other post-ordinance milestones the Arts Center could celebrate, and another board member — since the meeting was a teleconference, I don't know who — said yes, we could drag it out, maybe make more money.

No, you can't make money by dragging it out. The 9-month Pharaohs exhibit should be proof enough of that.

What wasn't made clear at yesterday's meeting: Where folks who are leary about the budget would cut it. As it stands, the budget embodies a deficit of only $5,000. Will they ask the Foundation to stretch out — even forgive — payments on the emergency loans it made to the Arts Center to make payroll and pay vendors?

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