Indiana Daily Student

City recommends management change at Buskirk-Chumley

Mayor John Fernandez announced Monday the initial findings and recommendations of the Bloomington Area Arts Council independent study commission. \nFernandez appointed the commission last month to investigate the financial difficulties of the BAAC, which is nearly $1 million in debt after the $3.2 million renovation of the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre last year. It consists of city council members and others with backgrounds in the arts and business.\nThe commission encourages the BAAC to transfer management of the Buskirk, which it owns.\n"The central recommendation is to separate the organization and management of the Waldron Arts Center from the Buskirk-Chumley," said Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Ted Najam, chair of the commission. "These two facilities serve different functions and should operate separately."\nBut Najam said paying down the BAAC's debt to the Monroe County Bank takes precedence.\nHe suggested its financial woes might lead to eventual problems with the John Waldron Arts Center, which the BAAC also runs.\n"We must first address the financial emergency that threatens both the theatre and viability of the arts center," he said. "The commission believes that prompt action is required to save and sustain both facilities as a community resource."\nNajam said the commission also recommends that it is accepted by the BAAC as a formal adviser to help develop a long-term financial strategy. The Indianapolis-based judge has previously chaired a 1990 commission that gave input on the revitalization of the downtown strip.\nThe mayor said he stood firmly behind the commission's recommendation.\n"I want to thank the study commission for taking decisive action to aid the BAAC," he said. "I strongly believe their recommendations must be implemented." \nFernandez also spoke of the importance of the BAAC remaining solvent.\n"I also want to express my gratitude to the BAAC board for bringing these resources -- the John Waldron Arts Center, the Buskirk-Chumley and all of the arts programming -- to our community," he said. "Thanks to their efforts, the arts are a part of our everyday lives in Bloomington."\nMaureen Friel, president of the BAAC's board, has said the council is open to the commission's advice.\n"We're in a tight spot," she said. "And getting out of debt is the first priority. So we plan on listening to the city with open ears."\nFriel could not be reached for comment after the mayor's announcement.\nThe BAAC relied on charitable contributions to pay off the cost of the renovations of the old Indiana Theatre, which Kerasotes donated to it on the condition that films not be shown. But Friel said the larger donations have trickled off, forcing the BAAC to take out a mortgage and a loan. \nWith scaled-down programming and less revenue, the not-for-profit council had to cut operating expenses at the Buskirk this summer. It reduced the theater's paid staff by more than half and missed payrolls.\nCiting the mounting debt, the state arts commission has also refused the council $70,000 in grant money that it receives every fall to pay operating expenses. But Friel said things should pick up somewhat with a full slate of fall programming, including a number of benefit concerts. \n"We just need more financial discipline," she said.

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