Friday, September 4, 2009

Farmington Valley Arts Center

AVON - Organizers of Farmington Valley Arts Center's annual juried show were supposed to have been hanging works of some 40 to 50 artists Thursday in preparation for the exhibit set to open next week. Instead, board member Martha Crawford spent the morning sending e-mails and making phone calls to artists, donors and many friends of the nonprofit.

Center offices will close effective immediately and all scheduled classes and exhibits — including the juried show — are canceled pending completion of a "strategic restructuring," according to an announcement issued by the group Thursday.

"We need to take a step back based on what's been a difficult economic time for us," Crawford said. "It's just gotten to a point where we can't go forward any more. The funds are just not there right now."

The Avon-based nonprofit owns and occupies two buildings in an old Ensign Bickford factory complex on Route 44 behind Avon's town offices and police department. Twenty to 25 artists share studio space there, but the 37-year-old group also runs a summer camp, retail gallery, exhibition space and outreach programs.

The center's operating revenue comes from rent artists pay on studios, retails sales and tuition from its camp. With fewer people buying art, retails sales have suffered and enrollment in the summer camp this year were among the lowest in the camp's nine-year history, Crawford said.

The board approved the closing Tuesday in order to regroup and look at alternative ways to keep the organization viable, she said. Once a new business model has been found, they plan to resume operation, Crawford said.

Worcester Center for Crafts recently underwent a similar reorganization that the FVAC board members plan to look at closely. That center closed late last year under similar circumstances but recently reopened under a partnership agreement with Worcester State College.

"They are a model, yes," Crawford said. "We need to talk to them and really look at it."

Artist's studios at the arts center will remain open, despite the shutdown of the retail gallery and camp, Crawford said. She could not say when other operations would resume.

"This is a very uncomfortable thing to have to do today," said Crawford, her voice choked with emotion, but "at the end of the day [we] will come out stronger."

- taken from the Hartford Courant website

This is a tough hit. I remember working at my "fake" job some eight years ago. It's hard to believe it was really that long ago. I had left my cubicle to head down for some lunch, where I would actually draw for a half an hour because I had already eaten at my desk. As I was approaching the cafeteria I would pass over the lobby. The Farmington Valley Arts Center was given space at this company to display and promote the center so I thought I would go down to investigate. This was a big moment for me. I had examples of my work with me. It was too good to pass up. I met with Jim Brunnelle and he got me an interview with the head of the teaching department, Pat Parker. Everything after that was great. Here I was, hired to teach cartooning for some other business and it was a business with a great reputation. I was immediately lumped in with a huge talent pool. What an honor. To be able to work with Jim, Pat, Chris and most recently Marty...a group of people that I will always hold the highest regard for. Let's hope the closing/restructure does what it needs to do...and if there is a place for me in the Arts Center's future, I hope they'll have me.
Thank you all for the opportunity,
Matt

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