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Superhero exhibit draws crowd to Carnegie in 2019
2020 challenging year for arts center
My hero exhibit
“Deflection” by Maurizio Zuluaga was part of the very popular "My Hero! Contemporary Art & Superhero Action" exhibition at the Carnegie Arts Center in 2019.

The previous year was marked with several successes for the Carnegie Arts Center when it came to exhibits, finances and community outreach, according to the annual report presented to the Turlock City Council.

"We had great shows, served a large audience of school children, and drew in people of all ages to participate in music, theater, poetry and art activities," said Carnegie Arts Center Director Lisa McDermott. "We went into 2020 full of enthusiasm and high expectations."

Those expectations for 2020 have not panned out. Because of the pandemic the Carnegie Arts Center has only been open for short periods off and on through the year, depending on the status tier for Stanislaus County.

"No doubt 2020 has been our most challenging year," McDermott said. "We've worked hard to adapt to the new ‘reality’ of online exhibitions, fundraising and educational activities. We continue to learn and grow, and maybe that's a good thing to come out of this year. We've been so fortunate to have strong support from our community (individuals, businesses, regional foundations, the County) that is keeping us financially viable in spite of the long-term closure."

In 2019, the Carnegie showcased the center's largest exhibit to date with the "My Hero! Contemporary Art & Superhero Action" show. The traveling exhibition from the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek included more than 100 paintings, prints, sculptures, and photographs to display. McDermott said the popularity of superheroes and comic cultures brought in a large audience, especially among people who were first-time visitors to the Carnegie. The exhibit was also shown to more than 1,100 school children during a series of field trips.

In total, the Carnegie hosted 10 exhibits in 2019 that brought in 3,275 visitors. School visits brought in another 2,551 to see the exhibits and 1,260 students came to watch the theater performances at the Carnegie.

carnegie pic2
School visits brought in 2,551 students to the Carnegie Arts Center in 2019 to see the exhibits (Photo contributed).

Between the exhibits, facility rentals, classes, programs and special events, more than 16,000 people came to the Carnegie in 2019, according to the annual report.

The endowment fund continues to be a steady source of revenue for the Carnegie. Under the Foundation’s investing policy, an amount from the earnings may be transferred to operating funds at the end of each fiscal year, though not to exceed 4% of the average three-year value. A record high amount was allocated by the Finance Committee at the end of the 2018-19 fiscal year. The total pledged commitments to the endowment fund ended the fiscal year with more than $2.1 million. The total pledges collected at the end of the fiscal year were more than $1.8 million.

McDermott said income generated by rental events, season sponsorships, fundraising and membership was reliable in 2019. One of the more successful events in 2019 was the Art of Design Home & Garden Tour, the second annual event dedicated to architecture, interior and landscape design. It attracted 400 visitors to experience four unique Turlock homes.

McDermott said the Carnegie staff and board are eagerly awaiting the time when they can welcome visitors back to see exhibits in person.

"In 2021 we hope to be able to re-start our exhibition program with vitality in the spring," McDermott said. "I'm not expecting any schools to be back through our doors until the fall, but it is something our staff and volunteers are eagerly looking forward to. Hopefully we'll be able to host our Home & Garden Tour in May; I'm optimistic about that event as a celebration of spring, a sign of renewed hope and a reawakening of cultural activities throughout the community."