MACC's Problem Is Failure To Support Itself - And Response

Monday, January 13, 2014

The MACC’s mission to promote the arts is laudable.  The problem lies in the MACC’s failure to generate income to support itself and to fund the extensive renovations and repairs the building requires. 

There is always a struggle to balance the wise use of financial resources with providing benefit to the largest number of citizens.  The Signal Mountain Library is a superb example of successfully achieving this balance.  There are over 5,000 members of the library.  The 2014 town budget projects $147,000 to support the library.  That is a cost of $30 per member to the town.  In addition, the Library Foundation has raised $100,000 for needed renovations.  Non-citizens must pay a $70 per year membership fee. 

The MACC currently has approximately 300 members based on participation in its classes.  The 2014 town budget projects $394,000 to support the MACC.  That is a cost of $1,300 per member to the town.  Non-citizens must pay a $30 per year membership fee.

The town has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the MACC building and another $1.6 million is needed to fund repairs and renovations to the building.  Will the investment of so large a sum exceed the value of the property?  Will the MACC ever approach supporting itself?  

Compare Bachman Community Center’s finances and services to those of the MACC.  The 2014 BCC budget is $85,000.  BCC self-funds all but $7,000 provided by the town of Walden.  Over the years the BCC Board has funded or has obtained grants to fund a new roof on the main building and the cafeteria, renovated the cafeteria, replaced all the gutters, repainted the exterior and interior, replaced flooring, renovated the windows, and provided the salary of a part-time director.  BCC hosts the popular Farmers’ Market and the 30 plot Community Garden.  It has provided space for public service programs rent-free or at a reduced rent.  These programs include Save Walden’s Ridge Hemlocks, Defensive Divas, Senior Citizen Tuesdays, and the AARP Defensive Driving Program.  The Mountain Arts Guild calls BCC home.  Artist rent rooms to use as studios. The Guild offers art classes and holds an exhibition during the annual Garden and Arts Expo.  Summer camps provide income as well as serve the community.  BCC has a broad mission statement which has also proved to be a success business model.

The lovely stone building housing the MACC is meaningful to many people.  It is a part of Signal Mountain’s history.  The optimum outcome would be the preservation of the original building without placing a huge financial burden on the citizens of Signal Mountain.  That could involve broadening the MACC’s mission statement to enlarge the membership and taking aggressive steps to obtain alternative funding, including grants. 

Barbara Womack
Signal Mountain

* * *

The MACC has various art classes - painting, pottery, adult, youth; musical classes - strings, guitar; ballet and other dance classes; yoga, puppetry, theatre - plus other classes. It is the site for many productions by the Signal Mountain Playhouse, has been the site for Brownie and Girl Scout troop meetings, and has seen at least one Eagle Scout project.

The original building, constructed in 1926, is a few years older than Bachman, built in 1933. Bachman was last modernized in 1984. I don't know when the MACC's last upgrade was before leaving the school system, but I know it was before 1984 (when my first child started kindergarten there).

The MACC seemed to be adequately funded a few years ago, although not enough for the massive costs to upgrade an 88 year old building. Change to that source of funding was brought about as the town increased it's involvement, and the amount available to the MACC has dropped. I would be interested to see the actual dollars the MACC received, by year, from the Hodgepodge, and not the amount Hodgepodge took in before expenses.

I wonder if the MACC is compensated by the town specifically for the expenses of the winter and indoor productions by the Signal Mountain Playhouse. That certainly shouldn't be considered a MACC expense for recordkeeping purposes.

I do not know if those who host programs at Bachman are required to carry insurance such as I was told would be required at the MACC if I could find someone willing to teach a cake decorating class there. 

Bachman appears to exist without extensive oversight by the town of Walden, whereas the MACC seems to have become more and more tightly controlled by the town council of Signal Mountain.

Comparing the two centers is like comparing apples to oranges. Perhaps the members of the town council of Signal Mountain should look at the structure of Bachman's board and it's relationship with the town of Walden. 

Macel Holloway
Signal Mountain

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