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Hudgens leader: Arts center will bounce back from shortfall

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

After launching a campaign to raise $30,000 in 30 days to address an emergency cash shortfall, leaders of the Jacqueline Casey Hudgens Center for the Arts say they believe the drive will be successful and that the future still holds promise for Gwinnett County’s largest arts center.

The campaign launched last Friday marks the first time the private, non-profit Hudgens Center, which operates on a $400,000 annual budget, has had to turn to the public for rescue funds since it opened in 1993.

Teresa Osborn, executive director of the Duluth arts center, said the shortfall was the result of cuts in support from long-term donors (individual, corporate and foundation) and an inability to meet boosted earned income projections from classes, camps and rentals.

“We have been tracking this trend and [its] effect for some time,” she said of the drop in donations amid a weak economy. To counter the cuts, “We have rebranded the organization, revitalized the board, revised the mission statement, reviewed all of our programs and are reaching out to the community.”

Osborn said her board expects funding to bounce back, and that Hudgens leaders are returning to long-time donors with a long-term strategic plan, seeking multi-year commitments. The arts center is also negotiating a partnership with another non-profit that it hopes to finalize by early 2011 that would trim operational expenses, she said.

“With a 33,000-square-foot building, we have had to spend a great deal of staff time, energy, effort and money on building maintenance, security and upkeep,” Osborn said. “This partnership will allow more of the funds we raise to go to our mission — to bring art lovers, leaders and learners together through quality programs and exhibits — rather than to operational costs.”

The arts center at 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway is proceeding without pause on two big projects, including the Hudgens Prize, a visual arts competition that will honor a single Georgia artist. Five finalists were recently announced for the $50,000 prize; the winner will be named on Nov. 30.

The Hudgens also still plans to launch the 3L Project, an arts program aimed to help Gwinnett Title 1 middle schoolers with math. Plans are for it to be in a pilot phase at three schools next May. Hudgens is slated to receive a $10,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant to launch the project, and is raising an additional $44,600.

The “$30K in 30 Days Campaign,” however, is targeted at individuals. “We look at this as an opportunity to let people know what we are doing,” Osborn said, “and how important their support is.”

Donations can be made via 770-623-6002 or http://thehudgens.org.

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