Community Arts Space

Thinking through my idea of a community arts space a bit more. Let’s say I want to buy a building, and let’s say the building costs $800,000. We’re talking about a capital campaign to raise at least $1 million, factoring in some money for initial repairs and equipment / furniture set-up. This is separate from ongoing operating costs.

I’ve started having conversations with people, and it seems like there’s real support for Oak Park having an actual community center (which we don’t have), and in my ideal world, this might be part of the Library system. But if done by the Village, that is, of course, a budget issue. I don’t think there’s any way OP folks would agree to raising taxes to pay for it and honestly, given our current school situation, I wouldn’t want to ask them to. Property taxes will be high enough without adding another burden.

If I do it as a non-profit, then I can solicit individual donations (does anyone have a million dollars and want their names on the [name] Center for Arts Innovation? Half a million? Do you happen to know any high net worth individuals? Get in touch!), and also apply for government grants (should any exist in this administration) and corporate grants. (I’ve raised money before, but I admit, raising a million dollars intimidates me greatly. But I’m pretty sure I know people who can help with that — thanks to Rebecca Simkin who already had a conversation with me from Toronto and sent me some grant research information.)

But a non-profit means that OP won’t get any taxes from the project, which might make them less inclined to cut me a deal on the building? I think they own several buildings that would be great fits for this project. I would ideally like at least a hold on taxes while we’re getting started, although if they wanted to also throw some TIF money at the project, I wouldn’t say no.

If I do the center as a for-profit — well, first, I’d need a business partner who knows how to make profits, because I will be very frank and say that that is not me. I don’t think it’s impossible, though — the cafe could be for-profit, and the shop, and the performance space could be rented out for parties and heck, small hipster weddings and such. I do have confidence that I could make it beautiful, even on a tight budget. Fairy lights and paint cover a host of sins. 🙂

We could even, I think, set the center up as a for-profit with a non-profit arm, the educational / arts foundation part. The 501(c)3 I already run could even just partner with the for-profit business, at least to start, so I think it might be surprisingly quick to get that all up and running — we could start taking donations tomorrow.

Just noodling right now. In the research phase, having conversations with people, figuring out what Oak Park has, what Oak Park needs, refining the vision and mission. Next step would be a business plan and actual budget, but I don’t think I’m anywhere close to there yet. Right now, just dreaming and thinking.

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