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Carnegie thrives in revived Turlock arts scene
McDermott leads arts center into next era
Lisa McDermott has been a part of the Carnegie since 2001, when she began working as the arts facilitator. - photo by CANDY PADILLA / The Journal

When Lisa McDermott looks around the Carnegie Arts Center, she can’t help but smile and feel slightly justified.

McDermott was part of a campaign that rallied around the Carnegie when an arson left it in ashes in 2005. She also was part of a vocal community that fought to revive the Carnegie when some of Turlock’s leaders balked at rebuilding the facility and raised doubts on whether or not the community could build and support an arts center without city support, especially given that the area was getting particularly battered by the Great Recession.

“I look around and I feel like we have proven our point,” McDermott said. “The community made the argument that the Carnegie was an important thing to invest it. Now we are paying our own way and I’m pretty proud of that.”

The Carnegie Arts Center presented their annual report to the Turlock City Council Tuesday night, showing that for the third year in a row the Carnegie has been able to end the year in the black, albeit this year required the Carnegie Arts Center Foundation had to use endowment interest funds to do so. Upon its opening the Carnegie Arts Center was bestowed with $2 million in endowment pledges. The Carnegie’s total revenue, which includes unrestricted and temporarily restricted revenue for the 2013-14 fiscal year was $422,133. Temporarily restricted funds include donations to the school bus transportation fund, which is expended as needed to cover reimbursements to schools for field trips, as well as two Memorial Scholarship Funds that are awarded to students to cover all or a portion of class fees.

The Carnegie’s total expenses for the fiscal year 2013-14 was $446,736, requiring the Foundation to disburse $54,840 from the interest generated off the endowment fund.

“While finances show an anticipated shortfall in unrestricted revenue, income generated by the growing endowment fund bridged that gap in 2014,” said McDermott, who serves as the Carnegie’s director.

Over the course of 2014, the Carnegie Arts Center was host to 10 exhibitions that drew in 4,716 visitors to the gallery. It was an innovative year for exhibits at the Carnegie. “Carnegie Rocks!” was a one of a kind exhibit of rock and roll memorabilia that fused the music and art worlds. The “Roman Loranc” exhibition was so well received it was selected by the Landau Traveling Exhibitions for tours throughout North America. In 2014, the Carnegie also partnered with the Mistlin Gallery in Modesto for the Central California Art Showcase, which increased artist participation by 100 percent.

Outreach and education continue to play a major role in the Carnegie’s mission. In 2014, the Carnegie saw 2,908 students pass through the doors to learn about four different exhibits at the Center. The students came from 40 schools across Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin counties.

Over the year the Carnegie presented 48 programs, like the Family Friday events and Sunday Lecture series that drew in 2,586 participants. Of all the programs, 28 percent were designed to appeal to children and families. The year saw the Carnegie establishing several partnerships with other organizations to bring a wider selection of arts to the Center. They began a music series with the Jazz Studies program at California State University, Stanislaus and presented theatre from the Merced College Theater Society.

Enrollment in the Carnegie’s various classes has stayed steady, but the Foundation would like to see an increase this year. Donations to the Justin Ferrari Memorial Scholarship Fund, will allow the Carnegie to offer 85 percent tuition reductions to qualifying students and they are expecting to see an increase in low-income student participation by the summer. The Carnegie offered 59 classes in 2014, ranging from dance to art instruction, and drew in 123 enrollments. Classes aimed at children and teens made up 65 percent of the Carnegie’s schedule.

In addition to receiving the Carnegie’s annual report, the Turlock City Council was asked to approve a new set of fees and raise existing fees at the facility. The lease agreement signed in October 2009, between the City of Turlock and the Carnegie Arts Center Foundation stipulates the Foundation get city approval on all fees and rental charges. The current fee structure has been in place for three years, and needs to be adjusted to cover “rising costs for staffing and overhead,” according to the city staff’s report. The Carnegie wants to be able to adjust the fees on an as needed basis and the Council agreed, approving the request 5-0, Tuesday night.

The Carnegie is proposing a slight membership increase of $5 for educators and seniors, bringing the amount up to $40. All other membership prices are expected to remain the same and will include free exhibit entrance.

The new year is also bringing some personnel changes to the Carnegie. Nearly a year after taking on the helm of the Carnegie Arts Center on an interim basis, McDermott can finally drop the word interim from her title.

"Lisa has been instrumental in the creation of the Carnegie since the reopening with our programming, exhibits, education and leadership,” said Foundation President  Jeani Ferrari. “This is a well deserved promotion and the board enthusiastically supports Lisa as she continues to drive our strategy forward."

McDermott has been a part of the Carnegie since 2001, when she began working as the arts facilitator. Prior to her current position, she served as the assistant director.

“Moving from assistant director to director of the Carnegie Arts Center is a gift to me from the community and our board,” McDermott said. “I’ve been part of the Carnegie family and experience since 2001 and I couldn’t be happier to be in this important role spreading the value of the arts throughout the region.”

The Foundation also has brought on two new board members. Juliene Flanders is now the Chair of the membership committee. She spent 25 years as a Recreation Supervisor for the City of Turlock and worked closely with the Turlock City Arts Commission. She served as the CEO for the Manteca CVB for over two years and is now the Recreation Director for the City of Patterson. Flanders said her goal in serving on the board is to “continue to enrich the quality of life in Turlock by providing an inspirational gathering place where cultural activities are available and affordable to all.”

Bernadette Halbrook, who is now the Vice President of the Carnegie Arts Center Foundation Board, has been a life-long educator. She has worked in higher education as a classroom professor and as a university liaison to various community organizations. She is currently teaching two graduate level courses at CSU Stanislaus each semester. Halbrook said she hopes to “play a role in furthering the Carnegie’s mission as a venue where individuals of all ages and backgrounds can come together to celebrate art in its many forms.”