Upstairs Artspace aims to work past funding issues

Published 4:43 pm Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wyndy Morehead, manager of the Upstairs Artspace gallery in downtown Tryon, recently sent the Bulletin a letter to the editor imploring local art enthusiasts to rush to the aid of the gallery to prevent its closing.
Duncan Ely, appointed last month as president of the Upstairs Artspace board of directors, said there has been a cycle of financial uneasiness for the gallery, but he does not anticipate its closure in the near future.
“Upstairs Artspace is struggling, as are many area, national and global nonprofits. The gallery’s financial problems seem to come to a head every three years or so,” Ely said. “In 2008 the board was on the verge of closing the gallery, but managed to turn things around. The problem always seems to be cash flow. Now, once again, we have a cash flow problem. I do not believe we will have to close the gallery this time around either.”
Ely said the gallery faces losses from two of its larger fundraising events. The greatest sum loss he said could be attributed to Art Trek Tryon, which garnered only $1,000 in 2010. In 2009 the relatively young event brought in almost $10,000 for the gallery, Ely said.
The Upstairs Artspace also moved its Silent Art Auction from the fall to the spring, meaning there were essentially no funds brought in from that event in 2010. This event historically raises about $8,500 a year, he said.
“At present we are probably okay through the end of this calendar year, but are being proactive in a number of ways to improve the current situation and the outlook for 2012,” Ely added. “We are also being proactive in a number of ways to break this three-year cycle.”
Ely said the Upstairs Artspace signed a $200,688 mortgage in 2005. Having since paid that amount down to $88,856, the board of directors is renegotiating that small sum. Ely said Upstairs Artspace has not defaulted on the loan and is not planning to in the future.
He said the gallery also brought in two professional organizational consultants who provided their services at no charge. He said these consultants would work with the gallery on board development and strategic planning. Two other fundraising professionals are also lending their support free of charge.
Ely said the board of directors plans to increase its number of members from nine to 12 or 14 and is considering a $25,000 challenge grant.
“We are working the upcoming Silent Art Auction and Art Trek Tryon as offerings to the community, as public relations venues and as fundraisers,” Ely said.
He added that supporters of the gallery are working in several different ways to raise immediate and long-term money for operations, mortgage retirement and additional endowments from other sources as well, including grants, planned giving (additional estates and bequests) and large donations from individuals, couples, businesses and institutions.
“All in all, we are in a position to enthusiastically hang in there throughout 2011 until we have in place parts of our strategic plan and development/fundraising strategy that will put us on firmer organizational and financial footing for 2012 and beyond,” Ely said.

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