ArtsCenter looks to its beginnings

New mission statement, plan emphasize education
Feb. 27, 2013 @ 05:41 PM

The ArtsCenter in Carrboro started in 1974 as the Art School, a one-room facility where artists taught painting. Taking a page from those beginnings, this week the ArtsCenter Board of Directors released a new mission statement and plan for the organization that re-emphasizes education as the central goal of the almost 40-year-old organization.

A committee made up primarily of board members, with assistance from Raleigh-based consultants Armstrong McGuire & Associates, conducted interviews to produce the guiding plan for 2013-2015. The committee “agreed that the core work of The ArtsCenter is education [italics in original] and that evaluating the activities of all stakeholders against this central commitment will lead [to] a stable and productive future,” the consultant’s report stated.   

The mission and vision statements also reflect the emphasis on education. The ArtsCenter’s mission, according to the statement, is to “inspire artistic creativity” in people of all ages. The organization’s vision is “to create an educational environment that provides opportunities, inspiration and tools to people of all ages and skill levels to participate in the arts.”

That language does not mean that the ArtsCenter is abandoning performances. “Part of the message we want to get out is that we are a 90 percent educational organization that happens to do performance,” said Art Menius, the ArtsCenter’s executive director. The organization will continue to present ArtsCenter Stage productions, the Chuckle and Chortle Comedy Showand national music artists, he said. The ArtsCenter in recent years has presented annual Celtic and American Roots concert series. While those genres will still be represented, the series titles likely will be dropped, Menius said.

The current offering of 587 arts classes is the organization’s largest ever and represents the high demand in the community, he said.

“The competition in this crowded entertainment market is why we need to be more focused,” Menius said. “We can’t be all things to all people. We have to do what we do well.”

Late last year, the ArtsCenter’s board reported the organization ended the 2012 fiscal year with net assets of $141,965. In early 2011, the organization faced a $250,000 deficit. 

In February 2011, the ArtsCenter’s board of directors eliminated two administrative positions. Last year, the ArtsCenter laid off Tess Mangum Ocaña, the concerts and facilities manager. At the time Menius said the cost of presenting concerts was just too high, and the elimination of the concerts manager position was part of the ArtsCenter’s effort to get on solid financial footing.

The strategic plan released Wednesday outlined some strengths and weaknesses of The ArtsCenter. Strong points included the center’s diverse offerings, its longevity in Carrboro, and “enthusiasm for the new director.” Weaknesses included “lack of clear direction, especially problematic in the face of new competition for arts experiences which have emerged since The ArtsCenter’s founding.” The report also cited a “history of financial struggles,” a low public profile and a belief that the organization’s “business model is not sustainable.”

The report outlines specific strategies for the organization to reach greater stability and reach its goals. Among them are recruiting four new board members, creating a public relations program “to address negative perceptions in the community” and rebuilding relationships with donors, patrons and former board members.