By Howard Pousner
Late Friday evening, the Jacqueline Casey Hudgens Center for the Arts’ board chairman sent out an e-mail to supporters that dropped a bomb: Gwinnett’s biggest arts center is facing an “emergency” cash shortfall and needs to raise $30,000 in 30 days.
Stan Hall’s letter notes, “The biggest need the Hudgens faces today is an immediate influx of cash to sustain the organization at its present level while the acquisition of long-term funding can be achieved.”
The letter does not specify what led to the shortfall at the nonprofit, saying obliquely, “Under normal circumstances, the Hudgens would be in great shape … but these aren’t normal times.”
The Hudgens Center (formerly the Gwinnett Arts Council) dates to 1981. It moved into a newly constructed facility in 1993, a 14,000-square- foot building adjoined by the 28,000-square-foot Al Weeks Sculpture Garden. In 2000, 20,000 square feet of galleries, classrooms and performance space was added.
The community arts center, located at of 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Building 300, in Duluth, offers a multitude of classes for adults and children. The Hudgens also mounts four to six major visual arts exhibitions yearly that draw metro Atlantans from beyond Gwinnett’s county lines. Its next show, opening Oct. 12, is “Works by John Lawrence,” by the noted Georgia photographer and director of the Lamar Dodd Art Center at LaGrange College.
This year, the center won attention for launching the $50,000 Hudgens Prize, to be awarded to a single Georgia visual artist, with the winner from among five recently announced finalists to be named on Nov. 30.
Hall’s letter does not suggest that the Hudgens will have to close its doors, but solicits help to weather a cash shortfall it terms as “temporary.”
“Solicitations to major donors and foundations have been made but may be some time in coming,” Hall writes.
The economic downturn has been difficult for metro Atlanta arts groups of all sizes, with organizations including the Atlanta Opera cutting performances to cut costs and even Midtown’s Woodruff Arts Center (parent organization of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, High Museum of Art and Alliance Theatre) experiencing a rare decline in annual corporate giving.
Donations can be made via 770-623-6002 or http://thehudgens.org.
Here’s the full text of the letter from Hudgens’ board chair Stan Hall:
A Letter from the Chairman of the Board
It is the best of times and the worst of times.
The Hudgens is rising like a Phoenix yet we are faced with an urgent financial challenge in the midst of great success.
In the last two years we have worked diligently to reorganize and strengthen The Hudgens internally and externally. With your donation, we can continue to make great strides.
The board structure has been revised, the finances evaluated and analyzed, and there is a long term strategic plan in place. We have doubled class enrollment, expanded membership 600%, and increased volunteer support. The Hudgens has developed strong and sustainable partnerships with schools, museums, libraries and others that will enrich the communities we live and work in through strong arts education and programming. We are developing the 3L Project which is an integrative art/math program for 6th graders in Gwinnett. This pilot program will introduce children to art with The Hudgens being front and center as the arts leader in the community.
In order to help support and encourage Georgia artists we are awarding The Hudgens Prize, a $50,000 prize to a single Georgia visual artist which will be announced November 30th. The five finalists have been selected from the 396 entries and will have exhibitions in the future. This extraordinary opportunity will help encourage Georgia artists and catapult the Hudgens Center for the Arts into state wide and even national news. It is important to note that the prize and additional support funds for the events surrounding it have come from a single anonymous donor. No operating or program funds have been used to accomplish the amazing event.
Under normal circumstances, The Hudgens would be in great shape to continue and advance its leadership in the Georgia Arts community. But these aren’t normal times. The biggest need the Hudgens faces today is an immediate influx of cash to sustain the organization at its present level while the acquisition of long term funding can be achieved. Solicitations to major donors and foundations have been made but may be some time in coming.
We ask you to respond to this emergency by donating now.
Our goal is to raise $30,000 in 30 days. Your gift of support can help us weather this temporary cash shortfall and continue the great path the Hudgens is on. Please respond today, by mail or phone, or visit our website by October 30.
For nearly 30 years the Hudgens Center for the Arts has been known for innovative experiences which bring art lovers, leaders and learners together through quality programs and exhibits. Many of you have been there for us so many times in the past and many of you are new to our family. Please join us, as we all come together. With your generous support, by contributing to the 30 in 30 campaign, we will continue to make a difference in our community and in the lives of children, the next generation of art lovers, leaders and learners.
Chairman of the Board