Many in the local arts andmusic scene have contributed toa recent flurry of fund-raisingevents and campaigns to helpsave the Merced MulticulturalArts Center.
The outpouring of support wasprompted by the threat of closure,as well as promises that the facility would usher in a new era offinancial stability and innovation.
“Instead of constantly askingfor emergency assistance, I thinkit can be run like a business,” saidLaura Phillips, executive directorof the Merced Arts Council, thenonprofit that operates the artscenter.
“We are going to aggressivelypursue third-party, arts-relatedrenters and more programs,more classes to make the artscenter profitable,” she added.To give Phillips time to revampthe art center’s business model,community members have donated significant amounts of money,held fund-raising events and evenposed for a charity calendar.
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Local independent artist Monika Modest held severalworkshops over the pastfew weeks to raise moneyfor the arts center. Participants made a donation topaint and glaze ceramic tilesthat will be used to decoratethe building’s main staircase.
“People are very excitedabout the idea that theirtiles will be on the risers ofthose steps,” she said.All three of the originalworkshops were full, andshe continues to get callsfrompeople who want to participate. She said she willhold additional workshopsin the near future
Last week, the Downtown Life Magazine held an "Awkward Family Photo" event at the arts center, which donated all proceeds to help keep the building open.
People wore colorful sweaters and took playful pictures against a holiday-themed backdrop. The sweaters and other props were provided for participants, who received their pictures printed on greeting cards and through e-mail.
A second Awkward Family Photo event will be held Dec. 14 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the arts center, said Tom Price, DLM editor and publisher.
"I think the arts center should be the epicenter of our growing arts community, and it starts with each of us recognizing its importance before it's gone," he said.
Meanwhile, Jordan Cowman, an assistant animal technician at UC Merced, has put together the "Men of Downtown Sexy Calendar" to raise money for the arts center.
The tongue-in-cheek calendar features various members of the downtown arts and culture community in comical poses.
"It's really Merced's only arts museum," Cowman said. "It's got some really cool activities. I'd hate to see it not be around anymore."
The calendar, which can be pre-ordered at http://mercedsexycalendar.com, will be available for pickup at the arts center by the end of the month, Cowman said.
Efforts paying off
These and other fund- raising efforts have so far brought in about $2,000, according to the arts council.
While that's a small fraction of all the total money raised this season for the arts center, the events help introduce people to the facility, supporters say.
"More valuable than the dollars we raise is the exposure," Price said. "You get people in and they see the facility, and now you have people who are more informed and can contribute."
Modest said many of the people who came to her workshop had never been in the arts center before.
"They didn't realize Merced had a center like this," she said. "It was a pleasant surprise when they wander in there and see there are exhibits and art classes that are not just for a small group of people. They really are for the whole community."
At the same time, Phillips said, she's seeking some big donations from the community. She said she's been able to secure 17 pledges of at least $1,000 a year for two years.
"We're asking for two years so we don't have to do it again," she said. "That gives me time to shore up the programming, to create partnerships with other agencies."
Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
AT A GLANCE
The Merced Multicultural Center continues to battle financial instability:
So far this year, the center said it has about $49,661 in membership dues, pledges and donations.
Last year, the arts center said it raised about $49,000 in membership dues and donations.
The arts center has said it's running a roughly $6,000 deficit per month.
As of November, the arts center said it had about $27,000 in stocks and savings. In 2011, that number was about $60,000.
In 2007, the arts center had about $80,000 in reserves to fall back on.