MARCO ISLAND — A 40-year-old art institution on Marco Island isn’t painting a pretty picture of their current financial status. Leaders of the Art League, Marco Island’s Center for the Arts, are however, in the process of sculpting a brighter economic outlook.
Since the Art League first publicly announced its financial problems earlier this summer, leaders say they have been continuing to develop their own bail-out plan.
Prolific community contributor, Dave Rice, has been the lead rescuer since August in what the Art League’s board of directors have dubbed Project Rescue.
The Art League has accumulated a debt of more than $100,000 and, for every hour the facility is utilized, about $62 is lost, Art League President Keith Klipstein reported in a release received Wednesday. He declined comment outside of that prepared statement.
“The Art League, celebrating it’s 40th year on Marco Island, has experienced financial hard times due to the economic climate and unless an influx of funds is received, the closing of the Art League is a real possibility.”
A decrease in membership is not the current trend for the Art League, which experienced growth in 2009 and now has more than 500 members, said Executive Director Christine Neal.
“Last year, our goal was to add at least 100 members and we did.”
However the Web site, marcoislandart.com, indicates that a couple years ago, the Art League had more than 700 members.
The goal this year is to return to that membership level, getting about 200 new members or more, Neal said.
As the Art League is entering its next fiscal year, Neal said it’s the perfect time to join and get a full year out of the $95 individual annual fee. There are also other higher-priced memberships with more levels of exclusivity.
Annual memberships come with invitations to private art shows, discounts on art classes, use of facilities and other perks.
To avoid further debt, however, the Art League has limited the days of operation, cut back on staff hours and limited many programs, the prepared release reported.
Klipstein would not elaborate at this time on what programs were cut or why the fees for those programs weren’t covering the costs. All of that will be explained at an upcoming press conference, he, Rice and other Art League insiders maintained.
The Art League’s sources of income are donations, memberships and program fees.
In July, Neal had reported that Art League classes were down 30 percent; sales were down 40 percent; fundraising events were down 40 percent and corporate sponsorships were down by half.
The Marco Island Center for the Arts is a 501-(c)3 non-profit and facilities include three large painting classrooms, a 1,200 square-foot clay studio, an outdoor sculpture deck, an art library, a consignment gift shop and the Lauritzen/Rush and MacFarland Atrium Galleries. The $1.5 million facilities were built in 2002 and made possible by donations.
Leaders did not share whether the cost of upkeep for these facilities is a leading factor in the financial distress, however, the Art League has expressed interest in sharing a facility with the city as part of the new Veterans’ Community Park, which may have an arts center but is still in the design phase.
Rice, a former college athletic director and current Marco business owner, was chosen to lead the bail-out effort based on his work on the Art League’s Endowment Committee and his past successes in many community projects, including large national sporting events hosted on Island, involvement in nearly all Island fundraisers, Christmas Island Style and many other endeavors.
Rice accepted with one stipulation, that he act in the capacity as a volunteer with no stipend.
“The possibility of the Art League closing its doors is unacceptable. The Art League’s 40 years of continuous service bringing art culture to Marco is a community jewel and requires full community support to ensure its existence,” Rice said.
Since August, Rice has researched the situation by reviewing past budgets, met with individual members of the board and fundraising committee, and written a detailed report and plan to be implemented in two phases, according to the prepared release.
Phase one is to remedy the debt situation and phase two is to alter the day-to-day business operation of the Art League to balance the budget, the organization reported.
The organization’s annual meeting, state of the business, director elections and a vote on Rice’s plan are scheduled Tuesday. Once approved, Rice’s plan is to become effective Nov. 1.
Neal said there are currently eight individuals willing to serve on the board and nominations may be taken from the floor with up to 15 board members allowed through their bylaws.
Current members not up for vote include Klipstein, Sandy Elliott and Maury Dailey. Other members on the ballot are Kathy Anderson, Nancy Carrington, Keith Dameron, Inez Hudson and Carole Roberts.
Rice has met with these individuals on aspects of his plan.
He would not comment on any details of the plan he has developed until the press conference.
Details of Project Rescue are scheduled to be unveiled at 5 p.m., Tuesday, in the Art League Gallery, located at 1010 Winterberry Drive, Marco.
Rice offered one comment: “There aren’t many alternatives. If we don’t get this thing going there won’t be an Art League on Marco Island and that’s unfortunate, but I think we have a great team to get this off and running.”