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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

Ugh

July 16th, 2009
1:05 pm

Oh yeah, someone (Edgewood Adam) has to throw in the old go back to the suburb comment. Not to defend John or anything….since he never said he lived in the burbs… but the art scene is thriving in Alpharetta so bite me. Matilda’s anyone? That place is PACKED every weekend.
You ITP people are so cool bashing the burbs and all. Why don’t you try going outside your comfort zone? It’s not all Chili’s and Fridays up here.

atlnative

July 16th, 2009
12:44 pm

I went to eyedrum a couple of times. In theory, a great place for art and music; in practice, it was just a bunch of GSU hipster-than-thou kids sitting around drinking PBR, making noise on an old drum set and some tin cans. Not surprised that this urban collective wasn’t able to pay the bills. But fine if that’s what you’re looking for I guess. And lay off the rednecks, dangit, we wuz here first.

CommonSenseMarketing

July 16th, 2009
12:34 pm

“Eyedrum”? With a great name like that, it’s difficult to understand why they are failing.

Jamie Gumbrecht

July 16th, 2009
12:29 pm

You’re right, BPJ — the best way to keep the conversation honest and productive is for the commenters to move it in that direction. Not all comments will be positive, nor should they be, but I hope the tone of these conversations, at least, will be thoughtful and helpful.

BPJ

July 16th, 2009
12:24 pm

Benton, don’t believe it. In my experience, Atlantans are more educated, sophisticated, and open to new forms of art than ever. We have more, and better art collectors than ever. Theatre companies that didn’t exist 25 years ago are now nationally respected, with loyal audiences. Robert Spano is making Atlanta one of the leading centers for contemporary classical music – and selling tickets.

The internet lets a few loudmouth soreheads set the tone – if we let them. So don’t let them.

gttim

July 16th, 2009
12:12 pm

I’ve been to Eyedrum a few times years ago. A great space with some nice shows. I hope the manage. Perhaps a less expensive place might be an idea. Remember, it is not really the space, but what is put in it that makes it.

And let me thank John and company. You never disappoint! You lift people up- if only by making them happy they are not like you!

Benton

July 16th, 2009
12:02 pm

I’ve lived in Atlanta since 1985, and it seems that the ugly attitudes exhibited by folks like John are becoming more the norm than the exception. It’s too bad. Atlanta used to be a great town, ready to embrace new forms of art and full of interesting characters and places. It now seems to be becoming just a big city full of yahoos who pride themselves on their own ignorance and intolerance. That’s nothing to be proud of, but I’m sure John, Bushwacker and the whole gang will read it as high praise.

OneChris

July 16th, 2009
11:51 am

Never heard of them? Who the heck are they ??? Sounds like a group with good intent but can’t maybe they seek funds like others do and have a car wash, auction, beg on the side of the road? Really I can only say they must not have a great Board to be in this fix.

marcus

July 16th, 2009
11:37 am

some of these comments are straight from the movie, “deliverance”. what a bunch of hicks. maybe a smaller space will help preserve the whole idea of eyedrum. peter street has available space and its opened up a whole new approach to the presentation of up and coming artist and craftsmen. these are trying times for everyone and benefactors are not clamouring to support the arts like they once were. i hope these artist find a viable location and to those naysayers; “here piggy, piggy…”

abc

July 16th, 2009
11:27 am

“Commercial Viability of Art” is almost a contradiction in terms.

Mainstream cultures will embrace art that represents their own perspectives, or that they can relate to enough to affect their perspectives, and incorporate them. Perspectives that represent alternative cultures, communities, lifestyles, etc. are less likely to be embraced by the larger numbers of people. That doesn’t make them irrelevant; it just makes them unpopular. They don’t enlighten, nor broaden, nor add, subtract or edit; they present something foreign, difficult to interpret or assimilate. That translates into lack of value for the patron.

If one chooses to be unpopular in order to stay true to their muse(s), then the associated lack of public support and funding goes with the gig. There’s not much room to complain. Presenting art that represents one’s muse in such a way that maximum numbers can relate to it is the optimal challenge to any artist, regardless of medium or genre.