Starting an art-based not-for-profit involves committee meetings, paperwork and fundraising, not tasks artists are known to enjoy.
Nevertheless, a group of Amsterdam art enthusiasts recently formed Creative Connections, a non-profit foundation working to establish an arts center in the old St. Mary’s Church on East Main Street.
“We’re committed to creating an artistic and culturally diverse place in Amsterdam,” said Creative Connections Board President Thom Georgia, “but we’re starting this company from the ground up, so there are some hurdles.”
The project began back in March with a meeting called by Mayor Ann Thane in the basement of the old church. There were some issues right from the start. Some wanted the arts center to be essentially a gallery for local artists, some hoped for community art classes and some wanted it to be a sanctuary of diverse culture where kids could hang out and not get in trouble.
There was talk of turning the backyard into a community garden or of building a basketball court.
Since then a board has been appointed and a mission statement drafted: “to inspire creative connection and spark community arts expression in a collaborative environment for the enrichment and unification of the community at large.”
The foundation plans to execute that lofty goal by bringing in local artists to teach classes and renting out space to creative businesses. The main hurdle is money.
The city owns the building and originally planned to run the center but couldn’t supply the funds to get things rolling.
“Until three weeks ago, we were still investigating whether it could be run through the city,” Georgia said. “Municipalities are barred from certain financial activities, like aspects of fund raising. It wouldn’t be financially feasible.”
As a private entity, Creative Connections can follow the usual arts center fundraising model, selling memberships and applying for grants. “Look around at other arts centers,” said foundation Treasurer Jessica Murray, “they’re all private non-profits. Why reinvent the wheel?”
With the freedom to fundraise however, comes the need to exercise that freedom. Now that Creative Connections is separate from the city, it can still use the city building, but must pay the yearly $12,000 utilities bill.
The first fundraiser, the Link Arts Show and Sale, is set for Aug. 18 at Riverlink Park. Artists are encouraged to submit their work by Aug. 15. There is a $10 artist entrance fee and 20 percent of sales go to the arts center.
Depending on the amount brought by the Link Arts Show and Sale and a membership drive set for early fall, Georgia said the center should be open to the public some time in September.
Once art classes are up and running and space is rented, the foundation will consider hiring staff and possibly buying the building from the city.
“Right now we’re not looking at how much money we need to raise,” Georgia said. “We’re looking at how much we can raise.”
To watch Creative Connections progress, visit www.creativeconnectionsarts.org.