TURLOCK — Opening an ambitious new arts center is challenging in itself, but especially during tight economic times when the area's unemployment hovers in the high teens.
Despite those odds, Turlock's Carnegie Arts Center had a successful inaugural year by the numbers. In its first 15 months, the community art museum and facility had 15,000 visitors, 3,300 class participants, 125 volunteer workers, two exhibits by internationally renowned artists and more than $2 million in endowments.
Center Director and Curator Rebecca Phillips Abbott called the first year a "smashing success" and said "these numbers speak for themselves." She presented the center's annual report to the Turlock City Council last week. The report had been delayed from the center's one-year anniversary because of the council's busy fall calendar and the center's exhibition by Edgar Degas.
The center opened with an exhibit by nature photographer Ansel Adams in September 2011. The Adams and Degas shows bookended a year of exhibits that ranged from the works of distinguished local artists to community collections and juried art competitions.
Although the Adams and Degas exhibits got a lot of people's attention, Abbott said, there is more work to be done in the Central Valley and beyond to spread the word about the center and its possibilities.
"We wanted to offer something in the visual arts that this area didn't have before," she said. "We see ourselves as a regional art center. We hope that not just the people of Turlock and Modesto but beyond come to visit and enjoy us."
Turlock Mayor John Lazar said he is proud of the center's accomplishments and what it brings to the city.
"Arts equals jobs to a community," Lazar said. "It's an economic engine. It makes our community vibrant. I am so proud and tickled that we have the Carnegie Arts Center."
In the coming year, Abbott hopes to increase the center's classes, which range from children's art to art appreciation, painting and dance, by 25 percent. The center also has held workshops, lectures and performances in the past year.
The center staff wants to see a 25 percent growth in membership, which helps to fund its operations. The center gained some 500 members who raised about $65,800 since opening.
The money picture
As with any new organization, creating revenue has been essential to getting off the ground. The center has raised $765,111 since opening, with the vast majority some $389,621 from its capital campaign for endowments. Endowment money is not used for day-to-day operations.
The center made an additional $61,000 from special events, $48,700 from admissions, $47,000 from sponsorships, $36,000 from shop sales, $33,000 from facility rentals and $22,750 from classes.
It had $446,414 in expenses, which was about $71,000 more than it brought in for general operations. The center was able to dip into its $200,000 operating reserve, leftover funds from its construction budget, to make up for the gap.
Abbott said the deficit was expected in its first year. Another, albeit smaller, shortfall is budgeted for its second year. She said she expects the center to have a balanced operating budget by its third year.
"The bottom line is we are on track according to our expectations and projects," she said.
Nearing $3 million goal
The center's endowment campaign, which has raised more than $2 million, is well on its way to its $3 million goal. Only one space in the center, its multimedia loft, has not been named. All the other seven indoor and outdoor spaces, including the main Ferrari and Gemperle galleries, have been named after area benefactors.
Abbott said a combination of everything from $35 student memberships to its largest endowments of $300,000 has helped the center prosper.
"I think we are all so pleasantly surprised and grateful for the response from the community," she said. "In times when the economy is still challenging, to have people support us in so many ways is special."