MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island’s Art League is approaching its 40th anniversary and leaders of the nonprofit organization have developed a game plan to ensure the Art League also celebrates its 41st.
Rather than art analogies, prolific community contributor and retired football coach Dave Rice, who is leading the Art League’s financial bail out plan, used football analogies to describe the kick-off of Project Rescue during a press conference Tuesday night.
“We’re not waiting for the economy to improve, we’re going on the offensive,” said Art League President Keith Klipstein, utilizing the analogy.
The primary goals are to pay off an approximate $100,000 debt while also developing a business plan to avoid accruing more debt at the current rate of $62 for every hour their doors remain open.
“This problem is not an expense problem, it’s an income problem,” Rice said.
Art League Executive Director Christine Neal said the community of Marco Island and the surrounding areas are going to be an important element to making their rescue plan a success.
“I know we can’t save it by bringing art to the community alone. What we need to do is bring the community to the Art League,” Neal said.
While Rice has spearheaded Project Rescue, he has at least 15 people working with him including those on the Art League’s eight-member board of directors as well as a fundraising committee.
With slogans, mottoes, a lifesaver logo and a group of leaders dressed in white to “white out the debt,” Rice says the group may, at times, get a bit corny.
Behind the prep-rally atmosphere of the Art League’s annual meeting and press conference are serious issues and hard work.
Project Rescue is an eight-month initiative for which if they are not successful, the Art League’s doors will be permanently closed by July, Rice said.
One of the most significant indicators of a problem is that membership dues only cover 14 percent of the $318,000 annual budget. Rice said dues should pay about 35 to 40 percent of expenses.
The decline in program participation in the last year was part of what has led to the organization’s near demise. The Art League relied heavily on income from programs and art classes, but attendance dropped significantly with the nationwide economic downturn, Klipstein reported.
So far, the Art League has limited their hours, reduced staff and cut programs to avoid tacking on more debt.
Rice calls the measures a “big Band-Aid on a hemorrhaging wound.”
The tougher decisions are around the bend as the Art League has listed a lot for sale near their Marco Island Center for the Arts building on Winterberry Drive – a move Rice said he would rather avoid.
Another of the aggressive moves, which several Art League members say is risky, is to wage an assessment on members.
The assessment figure has not yet been announced, but Rice said it would be close to 100 percent of the membership fee, which is $95.
At the peak of membership, the Art League had about 700 members, which has now dropped to about 450 members.
Members said that drop came after a significant increase in membership prices a couple of years ago.
“People may falter,” Rice said. “As a coach, if a player quit, I always said I never lost a good one.”
Along with the tougher decisions the organization faces, leaders reported several successes in bringing artists, businesses and the larger community together.
More than 40 businesses have signed up with the Art League to sell 50/50 raffle tickets on a monthly basis. The business owners, vendor of the winning ticket, Art League and the winner will all share the money raised.
Business owners may choose between five complimentary tickets or 10 percent of the tickets they sell at $1 each. The vendor of the winning ticket will earn 2 percent of the winnings. A winner announced on the first Tuesday of each month at an Art at Five Social will get 50 percent of the money and the Art League will get the remainder.
The first of these events is scheduled 5:30 p.m., Nov. 3, at the Art League, followed by the 40th Anniversary Celebration scheduled 6 p.m. Nov. 7. Other fundraising events are also being sponsored by organizations and businesses throughout the area, including Stan’s Idle Hour Restaurant in Goodland.
The Art League is encouraging community participation in ideas to help them come back to the financial viability they were able to sustain for at least the first 38 years.
During the press conference, Marco artist and tennis player, John Moulton, quickly peaked his head in the doorway and said: “Why don’t you bring the theme together and have artists paint those life buoys?”
Rice liked the idea, but Moulton was gone before he could throw him a pack of Lifesaver candy, which is the Art League’s current payment method for contributors to Marco’s cultural cause.