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Eyedrum finances could force arts space to move, close

Eyedrum, a non-profit community arts space in Atlanta, faces financial trouble that could force it to move, close or drastically change the way it operates. A press release posted online Wednesday and headlined “Eyedrum May Soon Call it Quits” said:

Facing a heavy rent burden and ever-increasing operating expenses, Eyedrum’s board of
directors held an emergency meeting Sunday, July 11, to consider the survival of the longtime art and music organization.

The options are few. They include a significant decrease in rent, bringing on other Atlanta-based arts organizations to sublet part of the 6,0000-square-foot space, a move to a smaller space, or an end to the award-winning venue altogether.

The release (PDF) says the board will try to negotiate a rent reduction with its landlord later this week, and will meet to discuss it or proposals from other art organizations on July 26, if not earlier. Donations will go toward operating expenses, but the release says, “the urgency and severity of Eyedrum’s financial burden cannot be overstated. Without a hefty reduction in overhead costs, a major move — physically or in terms of the organization’s identity — is unavoidable.”

Eyedrum has been around in different Atlanta locations for more than 10 years, and offers a steadily long list of interesting visual art, music and film. It would be a blow to the community and arts entertainment scene for that to go away. You have to check out the calendar to get a sense of the variety, but here’s an example: last year, the AJC covered an exhibition there about The Great Speckled Bird, a long-ago Atlanta alternative newspaper. Last month, I wrote about how the space was used by artists and community members to create signs to post along the BeltLine.

Thursday morning, Eyedrum board member Priscilla Smith said the non-profit first asked for help about a year-and-a-half ago, and it was OK — for a while. Running a debt-free, volunteer arts organization has never been easy, she said, but as the economy worsened, fewer shows came through town, audiences got smaller and the amount of money coming in shrank even more.

“We cover all our overheard with our own income. We just can’t sustain it at the rate we’re going,” she said.

Until decisions are made, Smith said, Eyedrum will continue to host performances, and to take suggestions. Organizers are planning an art auction, too, to raise money. Nobody wants Eyedrum to close, Smith said, so they’ll look first at renegotiating the lease, then at moving from the 6,000 square foot space near the Mattress Factory Lofts.

Smith said they’ll meet today with their landlord, Braden Fellman. Check back later for updates.

45 comments Add your comment

[...] than three months since Eyedrum put out the message that financial trouble could force it to close, the non-profit gallery and community arts center is safe through the end of the year  — and [...]

econ101

July 17th, 2009
4:27 pm

Pragmatist,
Other cities have airports and convention centers. People come to Atlanta because of the cultural attractions- MLK Center, World of Coke, The High, The Aquarium and yes, a vibrant art scene.
That is why we are in the process of getting beaten by Miami, Charlotte Nashville and other smaller but smarter cities.
I agree that crime is a problem but it is a problem in most big cities. Do you think Miami is crime free?

Pragmatist

July 17th, 2009
1:35 pm

People don’t schedule conventions in Atlanta to attend mediocre art galleries in the city. They come because of the airport and cheap convention space at the GWCC. But, atlanta’s lost a lot of convention business because of all the homeless downtown and crime, which the city never changes. Instead, atlanta cops spend time looking for jaywalkers, too afraid to deal with the drug / crime problems.

2busy2bu

July 16th, 2009
6:31 pm

Eyedrum is a great alternative art space, but it was an unwise move to take on a space bigger than they were willing or able to market successfully, especially since the artists involved dislike even the concept of marketing.

Oh and to John: Ignore the haters, you have every right to your opinions on art. Ridiculous how people who are for free speech are so ready to slam you for expressing yours. The fact that you even bothered to comment on the arts shows you have some interest. And that can develop over time into a rich experience for you. It can be the art of flyfishing, or painting. Just because someone says it is art doesn’t mean it is art to everybody!

I hope eyedrum survives, it offers anyone interested a very interesting experience. They just need to evolve with the times. It really is a strong economy that allows all that free expression! The government can only do so much, and they are more unethical that the majority of companies that get so much grief for trying to survive as well!

abc

July 16th, 2009
5:34 pm

Woodruff isn’t supported by taxes. They’re supported by private and corporate donations, some bond issues. Stone Mountain was originally developed as a private enterprise, not public works. Comparing physical infrastructure like roads, parks and pools to arts funding is just plain stupid. You don’t really think that’s a very valid argument, do you? Really?

For the relatively small amount of funding that Eyedrum needs, go get some corporate sponsorship. There’s a political buzz about upcoming limits on how much corporations can write off for donations (thanks for the tax reform, Mr. President), but all that would do is increase competition for those funds. It’s part of their financial planning, all you have to do is go talk to them, sell them on supporting your non-profit enterprise, and give them enough lead time to dedicate their budget.