MARCO ISLAND — An aggressive debt reduction strategy has placed Marco Island’s Art League in a position to get back on its fiscal feet.
Wiping out $100,000 in debt well within an allocated 242-day goal period has, according to executive director Christine Neal, “achieved a major step in ensuring the Art League’s future.”
It took just 158 days to kill an exhausted $100,000 line of credit, largely through the solicitation of private, business and corporate sponsorships.
The announcement was made Tuesday evening at a press conference at the Art League building, eliciting cheers from group of about 20 people composed mainly of board members and volunteers.
The debt reduction, which Neal said would culminate in zero dollars owed after June 1 when all pledges are honored, is a result of a campaign called Project Rescue. It was spearheaded by prolific Marco volunteer and civic figure Dave Rice.
It began Nov. 1, 2009, as a two-phase project, the first of which was fundraising followed by the establishment of a reserve fund that now has a head start, according to Rice.
Phase two aims at the development and implementation of a new business model, and to continue building the reserve fund to ensure the organization’s future. It has been in place since January, and committee members have been conducting brainstorming sessions to identify the organization’s opportunities and challenges, according to Rice.
The new business model is scheduled to be implemented no later than Oct. 1.
Rice paid tribute to the “efforts, time, commitment, dedication and passion” put forth by Neal, as well as board members Kathy Anderson, Nancy Carrington, David Caruso, Maury Dailey, Keith Dameron, John Dougherty, Sandy Elliott, Inez Hudson, Carole Roberts and Kenneth Stroud.
“Also to be remembered for their support are the many volunteers, Art League members, former leaders, businesses and patrons of the arts of Marco,” Rice said.
“It confirms my feeling that Marco Islanders will step up when needed in support of keeping culture alive in our city. It was truly a team effort, and although the challenge looked insurmountable, it made the success so much more rewarding.”
Neal said an early strategy in the wake of reducing the debt of the league, which has an annual budget of $318,000, will be to reduce summer hours.
The 40-year-old Marco institution has been through a tumultuous year, made more intense by the resignations of Neal — who’ll serve until April 30, and Art League President Keith Klipstein who resigned three weeks ago.
Both resignations were said to be for personal reasons. Neal and her Realtor husband Charlie will head for Michigan to spend time with their family and new grandchild, and Klipstein has said he wants to focus on his real estate career with Keller Williams on Marco Island.
Klipstein served on the board four years and as president nearly two years. Former board secretary Nancy Carrington, owner of Marco Island Florist, accepted the position as interim president, while Neal’s assistant, Linda Henell, was named as interim executive director.
In a recent interview following the announcement of her resignation, Neal said she had in 2008 seen a financial problem and began cutting expenses.
“We never thought what is happening to our economy would last so long,” she said at the time. “We learned we don’t have an expense issue — we have an income problem.”
Continued contributions to Project Rescue are encouraged to secure the future of the Art League. Contact the Art League of Marco Island directly at 394-4221 for information on tax deductible donations.