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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

john

July 16th, 2009
9:36 am

Good. Art Sucks. Close it down. Waste of space. I can draw pictures with crayons and it is just as good as these “artist” that draw pictures as well.

Daniela

July 16th, 2009
9:39 am

LOL @ john! That was hilarious and I agree with you for the most part! :)

Bushwacker

July 16th, 2009
9:45 am

Art, if it has to be subsidized thru donations or the govt and they can’t make it on their own thru selling their “art”, then obviously not enough people care about it and its time to get a real job!!

Justin

July 16th, 2009
9:46 am

Amazing place. Amazing memories. EyeDrum needs to persevere.

wxwax

July 16th, 2009
9:51 am

Cultural institutions like these, no matter how small, enrich our community. They make Atlanta a better place.

I’m sorry to hear they’re in trouble. I hope they have a forgiving landlord, unlikely as that may be.

the Captain

July 16th, 2009
9:54 am

Even thought I never really went to eyedrum, it’s sad to see the ignorance of the south shining here in these comments. Way to stereotype yourselves guys as a bunch of culturally ignorant, backwoods cretins.

demonspeed1102

July 16th, 2009
9:57 am

I would like to know what “real job” John and Bushwacker have?

john

July 16th, 2009
10:00 am

To “the Captain”, let me draw you a picture with a person playing a violin with tears in his eyes about the sad news. You’ll just have to image the sound.

Jamie Gumbrecht

July 16th, 2009
10:04 am

I think the variety of perspectives on art are revealing themselves in this thread, John and Bushwacker. Of course there are those who look at it as a business on which to make money, but for many others, it’s to learn, educate or entertain, to affect the space or people in the areas where we live or, in the case of an arts space, a way to connect with the community. Eyedrum, for its part, is a volunteer operation.

woodie

July 16th, 2009
10:07 am

A decline is civilization is precipitated by a decline in the creative arts. It’s creativity that keeps this economy going to begin with. Take that away and you have a bleak horizon.

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.

Mechanicsville

July 16th, 2009
10:14 am

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

Lucas

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.

Lucas

July 16th, 2009
10:17 am

I second Mechanicsville.

mowse

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.

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.

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.

ObamasGotBling

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!!!!

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.

BPJ

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.

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.

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…”

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

CommonSenseMarketing

July 16th, 2009
12:34 pm

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

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.

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.

Economix

July 16th, 2009
1:30 pm

Why should taxes fund private entertainment, including arts or sports? People should pay for their own entertainment—very simple.

abc

July 16th, 2009
1:35 pm

Even the Fox can’t survive on ticket sales alone, even though they have among the top, if not the top ticket sales in historic venues in the nation. The Fox relies upon private donations and benefactors.

Private support is appropriate for arts groups such as Eyedrum. Certainly, taxes should never support them. Inability to attract private funding, designed as a tax write-off for the donors, indicates clearly that either the organization isn’t sufficiently managed, or that their output isn’t of sufficient value.

Rachel Ray

July 16th, 2009
2:27 pm

A martini would taste great right about now.

Edgewood Adam

July 16th, 2009
2:35 pm

To Ugh,

I am from Alpharetta. Yes it is.

Edgewood Adam

July 16th, 2009
2:37 pm

Originally that is.

mowse

July 16th, 2009
3:28 pm

earball

July 16th, 2009
4:27 pm

what a person intends to realize and actually does realize is like a mathmatical correlation between the unexpressed but intended and the unintentionally expressed.

econ101

July 16th, 2009
4:41 pm

Atlanta is a city dependent on tax revenues derrived from convention business and tourism. The theory behind public finance for the arts is that the arts contribute to the financial welfare of the city by making it a more attractive cultural destination for tourists and conventions, and for corporations looking to relocate.
The theory simply put is that the tax revenues gained will exceed the taxpayer money spent, or not collected from non profits.
Public art often has the greatest cultural impact, but fails to meet the Bushwacker test for economic viability.
Atlanta is in he midst of a full blown arts crisis. Major galleries and performing arts organizations are disappearing, making Atlanta a less attractive cultural destination.
Many private donors are tapped out because of the economy and guys like Madoff.
Yes we have the world of Coke, the Aquarium and a bunch of strip clubs. But the longterm picture is that cities like Miami and even Nashville will be kicking our butts soon because they are commiting to culture.

[...] 11-year-old community arts organization’s financial trouble quickly picked up headlines on blogs and discussions on listservs. It’s not debt that finally spiraled out of control, Eyedrum [...]

Robbie

July 16th, 2009
5:17 pm

Hey “Art, if it has to be subsidized thru donations or the govt and they can’t make it on their own thru selling their “art”, then obviously not enough people care about it and its time to get a real job!!”

I’m with you, I’d much rather my shoes get made by slave labor. Let the market decide everything!

I feel the same way about highways! All road should be toll roads.

And little kids that can’t afford to build their own swimming pools? Well screw them! I’m not paying for them to go swimming.

The the market drove everything, we wouldn’t have the woodruff arts center, the second largest arts center in north america. Nor would you have public parks, swimming pools, stone mountain or state parks.

Charlotte, NC decided to become the second largest banking capitol of the US. As soon as they did that, they decided to invest heavily in arts and culture to draw industry and it completely worked. As Atlanta arts funding and its major and minor institutions start dying it will be fun to hear you complain then about why you don’t have a job and why industry is moving elsewhere.

Though Charlotte, Denver and other growing cities also managed to get their act together on mass transit.

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.

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!

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.

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?

[...] 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 [...]