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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


July 16th, 2009
11:20 am

Markets are wonderful things, great at setting the price of widgets and spreading prosperity. But market forces are inadequate to provide some of the things which make life enjoyable, including museums, symphony orchestras, opera, ballet, and much theatre (beyond a narrow band of work, such as big musicals and a few light comedies). It’s not just small nonprofits like Eyedrum which depend, in part, on contributions. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, generally considered one of the 2 or 3 finest on the planet, doesn’t stay open due to ticket sales – in fact, the entrance fee is voluntary, although most choose to pay it. The bulk of their budget comes from donors. The finest performing arts organization in the South, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, does better than most at selling tickets, but still at least half their budget is donations – which help keep the ticket prices lower than they would otherwise happen to be.

Nonprofit arts organizations go through an application process to the IRS to qualify for tax-exempt status (I’ve helped several through this process), making their donors’ gifts deductible against their taxes. Most people understand this, but there are always a few people who haven’t thought this through. For them, the Market is God, the great god Market will provide all we need, and there’s no need to think beyond that article of faith.

Edgewood Adam

July 16th, 2009
11:13 am

What a shame. The eyedrum is more than just a place to see art. They host great bands and have always been a point of pride for residents such as myself in the area. A friend of mine just opened and art gallery in Savannah. There is kind of a twist to it though. The upstairs is a tattoo parlor while the downstairs is a gallery. Its a great idea. This way money is always coming in. And lastly, pay no attention to the “Johns” of the world. He is bound to a life of suburban nothingness with either a horrible construction job or an entry level loan officer with a generic degree in date rape er, i mean business from UGA.


July 16th, 2009
11:10 am

Just call Washington and ask for taxpayer cash to bail out this artsy organization! They’ve got plenty of coin from taxpayers to do what they need! It’s just a phone call away—taxpayer money: it just keeps on giving!!!!

The Boykin

July 16th, 2009
10:52 am

So if someone thinks the art there is mostly not very good, childish, and not worth paying to see they are a closet homosexual? Maybe John is just a blue collar open homosexual. Like you need to be into art to be into man on man loving. I like the place for a show but the art there is not very marketable. Sometimes things have to close because people do not care enough to fork over money to keep it open. The high stays in bussiness because people want to go there and see the art. Eyedrum had a great spot there for awhile but the area is being built up and the land is worth money now.

Dos Prompt

July 16th, 2009
10:22 am

You see, John is a closet homosexual who thinks if he speaks out against culture, free expression and creative thoughts, no one will know he is gay…….BUSTED.


July 16th, 2009
10:19 am

wow, haters never cease.

John, yes, image the sound. Why would you even read an article about something that you have nothing positive to add (and make incredibly retarded grammatical errors in the midst of your hating)….you’re a genius, and your energy is so well spent.

i’m an artist, have a real job (so that i can afford to pursue creative endeavors), and i love art.

….couldn’t keep it to myself, i s’pose.


July 16th, 2009
10:17 am

I second Mechanicsville.


July 16th, 2009
10:16 am

Eyedrum is a great space, but it’s way too big. Rent on Memorial Drive / Cabbagetown has got to be going through the roof with all of the recent improvements. They should move out to the next cool (and cheap) district.

Haters are proof you’re famous. Keep it going, Eyedrum.


July 16th, 2009
10:14 am

Move Eyedrum to a cheaper location like Mechanicsville and be a part of a neighborhood’s revival.

Been There

July 16th, 2009
10:11 am

How about trying this…go through the place and start charging the “artists” that are living there some rent? Yeah, they are there…been there and seen them and walked in on them.