When the Carnegie Arts Center was gutted by fire in 2005, nobody could have predicted how much of an impact that one act of arson would have on the Turlock arts community. Five years later the City of Turlock, the Turlock City Arts Commission, and the Carnegie Arts Foundation are all dealing with new roles and challenges as a result of the fire.
Before the Carnegie Arts Center was destroyed it was home to the Turlock City Arts Commission. The building was owned by the City of Turlock and the commission had offices in the building and ran programs and gallery shows in the space. The Carnegie building was constructed in 1916 and had not undergone any major renovations since it opened. It was not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and it needed to be brought up to code in order to remain open.
“Under the direction of the Arts Commission, the Carnegie Arts Center Foundation was founded to fundraise for the renovation,” said Patty O’Donnell, president of the Carnegie Arts Center Foundation.
After the fire, the City Council agreed to rebuild the Carnegie Arts Center using Redevelopment Agency Funds under the condition that a non-profit organization took over the operation of the center. The Carnegie Arts Center Foundation agreed to take over financial responsibility and operate the center. They are in charge of furnishing, insuring and maintaining the center. Everything from landscaping to art supplies to toilet paper will come out of the Carnegie Arts Center Foundation’s budget. They are also taking on more board members and restructuring their organization to meet the new challenges of running an arts center.
“I totally believe that we’re up to the task, but it is a monumental undertaking,” O’Donnell said.
The Carnegie Foundation is starting their fundraising efforts now in order to fund the opening of the center and to maintain operation and programming in the future. One such fundraiser is the Garden Party at The Greenery. Historically, the garden party was a fundraiser held by the Turlock City Arts Commission, who organized the event for 16 years. In 2008, TCAC turned the garden party over to the Carnegie Foundation. The party went on hiatus last year, but is back on Sept. 18 and will again benefit the Carnegie Foundation.
Meanwhile, between the burning of the Carnegie and present day, the Turlock City Arts Commission lost all staff and funding previously provided by the City of Turlock. At a TCAC meeting in June commissioners were told they have budget categories but will have to fundraise their own money.
“If they want to do any shows or anything like that they have to seek sponsorships,” said Allison Van Guilder, Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities interim manager.
Without the donations the group previously pulled in from the Garden Party and the Ring of the Arts — both fundraisers voluntarily suspended by the commission — they have been unable to financially support new programming or maintain the gallery in City Hall. With zero dollars they are also unable to start any new fundraising efforts.
“We feel a little uncomfortable that we don’t even have a dime. We couldn’t send out a mailing if we wanted to,” said Candy Klaschus, chair of the Turlock City Arts Commission.
At their meeting on Thursday the Turlock City Arts Commission focused on new ways to reach out to the community and make contacts for fundraising and future art shows. Whatever their budget situation might be, TCAC is trying to continue their public arts projects including the City Hall Gallery and an upcoming poetry contest. Klaschus said that the group is getting back to their former strength now and they are focused on moving forward.
The Turlock City Arts Commission will no longer be directly responsible for any programming at the Carnegie Arts Center, Van Guilder said. But the group still hopes to play a role at the center in cooperation with the foundation.
“We will be, along with a lot of other people, the volunteers who help to keep the Carnegie going,” Klaschus said.
The fire that destroyed the Carnegie Arts Center has not yet destroyed the arts community in Turlock. The Turlock City Arts Commission and the Carnegie Arts Center Foundation hope to work together to provide excellent arts opportunities for their community.
To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail email@example.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.