Less 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 making major changes to the organization. There’s a new director, new board members and they’ll vote next week whether to move to a new space. Board chairman Allen Welty-Green said they expect to launch a capital campaign in coming weeks, too.
July was a dark time for the 11-year-old organization. It remained debt-free and volunteer-run, but booking and donations were down and utility and rent costs were adding up. Board members were exhausted, the 6-000 square foot space too expensive, and alternative spaces too much work to fix. “The stress of this is too much,” long-time director Robert Cheatham said at the time.
The community response was immediate and overwhelming, Welty-Green said: memberships and donations jumped, an art auction brought in “more than four figures, but not much more.” Suggestions for new spaces rolled in, and negotiations with Eyedrum landlord Braden Fellman Group Ltd. continued. Cheatham stepped down as director about two weeks ago, Welty-Green said. Cheatham remains involved with the organization, and board member Priscilla Smith moved into the unpaid executive director’s role.
“We got a lot of generosity in small amounts,” Welty-Green said. “What that’s done is re-energize our board members. The energy has been contagious. We’re much more optimistic than we were a few months ago.”
Eyedrum typically holds about 280 events every year, and programming continued even as organizers considered closing the space. A dance-a-thon benefit there this weekend drew a steady stream of partiers, DJs, bands, artists and volunteers into the space.
“It’s just a giant dance party,” organizer Anna Rodriguez said. “The after party is Eyedrum.”
The crowd was small when I stopped by in the evening, but dancing well before midnight — no small feat, as any DJ will tell you. But as predicted, the place was hopping at 2 a.m., and getting busier by the minute.
It was the quintessential Eyedrum event: walls filled with art, artists making art, DJs and a marching band sharing a stage, a crowd talking outside, break dancers, slow dancers and lone dancers in their own little world, pizza boxes, booze by the cup, meticulously curated fashion statements, folks who clearly haven’t showered days, late-night, early-morning, coming-and-going — $5 to $10 on a sliding scale, free for members.