Can the Riverwards keep art education alive?

“We’ve tried to make things so affordable to the community over the last 11 years and that’s kind of why we’re in this situation,” said Wilchinsky. “Now it’s really catching up to us.”

Portside Arts Center’s project manager, Jenna Wilchinsky, presents the financial issues Portside is facing to parents and supporters in the audience.

Representatives from the Portside Arts Center were on hand at a meeting Friday night at the arts center to give a presentation about the ongoing financial troubles of the Portside Arts Center, which is known in the community both for its after-school program and summer camp for children aged 4–12.

“A lot of our funding sources have dried up or been eliminated by different reasons,” said founding director Kim Creighton. “We’ve really been struggling the last couple years and our administrative staff has been going without pay, and we haven’t been able to pay rent consistently over the last several years.”

Creighton also owns the building the arts center is located in, and for that reason the center has been able to defer its rent.

“Kim owns the building and she’s gracious enough to be deferring our rent until we can pay it,” said Jenna Wilchinsky, Portside’s program director, during the presentation. “That’s been a big deal because if this was a different building and we had a landlord that wasn’t Kim, we would have been out a long time ago.”

Creighton and Wilchinsky said Portside has two options to remain open. Option A would be to remain in the Portside Art Center, while Option B would be to move the center into the Horatio Hackett Elementary School, which they were invited into rent-free by Principal Todd Kimmel.

For option A to become a reality, the school would need 60 students enrolled in its after-school program by May 15. Ten of the slots would be saved for students who come from low-income families, who receive discounted rates (five slots at $200/month and five more at $250/month). The other 50 students would need to pay the full $350/month for enrollment.

In addition to gaining 60 students, Portside would need to fundraise $50,000. Some $25,000 would cover deferred rent. The remaining $25,000 would cover the cash flow deficit from September 2017 to January 2018.

If the arts center chooses Option B, which would be to move into Hackett, it would still need 60 students to operate, but could charge less for enrollment. Instead, they would anticipate having 40 students pay $300/month, 10 students pay $250/month and the remaining 10 pay $200/month.

Additionally, the center would only need to fundraise about $40,000. Some $25,000 of the $40,000 would go to deferred rent, $14,000 would cover the cash flow deficit from September 2017 to January 2018, and the remaining $1,000 would be put toward moving costs.

Currently, Portside has 44 students in its after-school program, and 13 are expected to graduate or move away. As a result, the center is expecting 31 returning students next school year, leaving 29 slots to fill to reach its goal of 60.

In her presentation, Wilchinsky said the arts center can raise $30,000 via grants in a bad year. On a good year? $100,000.

In addition to applying for grants, the staff also plans to have a GoFundMe campaign live by April 3. It also plans to raise money by organizing a benefit at Johnny Brenda’s at a future date, and asking local companies and corporations to donate.

“We’ve tried to make things so affordable to the community over the last 11 years and that’s kind of why we’re in this situation,” said Wilchinsky. “Now it’s really catching up to us.”

Creighton said it was important for local children to have a resource like the Portside Arts Center because it provides children with a safe haven to let them explore and “engage with their creative sides.”

Wilchinsky said that while she understands moving to Hackett might save the arts center money, there are certain drawbacks as well.

“It’s important for us to stay in this location because we want to be a community hub,” she said. “We’re turning into a community hub or central point where we pick up children from multiple schools, so that’s a great point for parents to meet other parents from the community who are living in this community. Children meet other children who live in this community, but they don’t necessarily see each other every day because they don’t go to school with each other. So this is a great hub where the community can get to know each other through attending programs here.”