The cancellation of community arts events forced the Caldwell Arts Council to cut costs, but the leader of the nonprofit says that she expects to resume in-person programming when it is safe to operate normally again.
Two part-time staff were laid off permanently in April, and the other three staff members formerly worked up to 32 hours weekly but now work only two to 12 hours a week, as needed, said Suzette Bradshaw, executive director of the Caldwell Arts Council. In addition, the arts council delayed maintenance needed at their facility, closed their fax line and negotiated reductions of other costs.
The arts council canceled its biggest annual event, the Sculpture Celebration, which is usually held in September, along with art exhibits and receptions usually held at the arts council property on College Avenue. No exhibits will be held for the rest of the year, and Bradshaw said there has been no decision on whether to resume having exhibits in January.
Bradshaw says that it takes months to plan exhibits, so the arts council board members decided to cancel because they were unsure how the start of school would affect the spread of COVID-19 cases in the community.
“I know many in the community are disappointed in not having certain in-person programs and events. But the board understands the health risks that are inherent with close contact and gatherings and has chosen to err on the side of caution, while also trying to comply with state mandates that are still in place to curb the spread of the pandemic,” Bradshaw said.
The cancellations have taken a financial toll, Bradshaw said.
“For a number of programs and events there are fees for participation. Built into those fees are costs for overhead and administration as well as the larger direct program/event costs, so when certain events and programs are not held, the available funds for basic organizational costs such as insurance, facilities maintenance, utilities, staff expenses and more are also impacted,” she said. “In addition, because the community is not seeing as many active programs and events, donations have decreased. It is a difficult issue.”
Still, Bradshaw said that the board and staff feel the arts council will be able to weather the pandemic.
She said that staff members are continuing to work to secure funding, “and many corporate and family donors have been very gracious.”
They “understand the situation and are allowing flexibility in the use of funds they have donated and continue to contribute,” she said. “In return, the arts council is trying to be as conservative as possible with funding while still working to deliver a number of programs virtually.”
Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.