Laid-off arts center staff to receive aid

By Jessica Bloch, BDN Staff
Posted Nov. 18, 2009, at 1:36 a.m.

ROCKPORT, Maine — The Center for Maine Contemporary Art’s board of trustees said Tuesday it will conduct a “top-to-bottom reassessment” of its operations during a shutdown in the coming months while also providing unemployment and other benefits for employees who were laid off suddenly at the end of October.

Four former full-time staffers, including former curator Britta Konau, will receive unemployment payments, compensation for unused vacation and personal time, and a 90-day continuance of their health insurance, all paid by CMCA, according to two e-mails sent from members of the board of trustees.

To further help the workers, former CMCA board member Laurie Adams has established a private Appreciation Group Fund, the proceeds of which will go directly to the four former employees.

“We know that many of you are upset that the trustees had to take the difficult step of laying off most of our devoted and talented staff,” trustee Dave Thomas said in an e-mail directed to Maine artists. “We too are upset that financial realities forced us to act as we did. We deeply regret that we were unable to give the staff more notice.”

Executive Director Mary Ann Schierholt, who began her position in August, is the only full-time employee remaining.

CMCA’s board of trustees announced late last month the closure and layoffs were necessary because of ongoing financial difficulties.

Neither e-mail Tuesday gave an indication of a date for the center’s reopening, although the letter addressed to Friends of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art from board co-chairs Dudley Zopp and Judith Daniels indicated CMCA would be open again in May. Thomas’ e-mail said the center remains committed to its popular Biennial Juried Exhibition, which is due for 2010 although CMCA’s Web site does not list any coming exhibitions.

CMCA, which has four exhibits on display, will be open until Dec. 20.

The closure will provide the nonprofit center and its board members time to restructure the business model, which Thomas said was found to be unsustainable in a financial study of the center’s last 10 years.

“Clearly, we will have to devise a new plan of operations that will enable us to operate consistently in the black while at the same time allowing CMCA to adapt to the changing reality of the contemporary art scene in Maine,” said Thomas.

Thomas said CMCA does not have an endowment.

“In too many years, [budgeting] efforts have fallen short,” he said.

The nonprofit institution’s most recent income tax documents showed that CMCA had a deficit of $219,000 during 2008 and a deficit of $115,000 in 2007, according to a Nov. 4 Bangor Daily News story.

Two former trustees have volunteered to help in the center’s restructuring process, according to Thomas’ e-mail. Former board Chairwoman Marilyn Rockefeller has returned to the board, while Karin Thomas, also a former chairwoman, will return to co-chair the development committee.

Questions and comments may be sent to info@dudleyzopp.net.

For more information about CMCA, go to www.cmcanow.org.

jbloch@bangordailynews.net

990-8287

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/11/18/business/laidoff-arts-center-staff-to-receive-aid/ printed on July 24, 2014