After a six-year run, the Asheville Area Arts Council recently announced plans to sell the building it owns at 11 Biltmore Ave. which has showcased emerging artists.
Board Chair Tom Hayes blamed the nonprofit's decision on tough economic times. "This is not our first choice. This is just something that was financially necessary," Hayes told Xpress. "We wrote a lot of grants last year, and we were not very successful."
Since opening in 2004, the Front Gallery has hosted hundreds of public shows by local artists, but it was never able to generate enough income to break even, Hayes explained. "I know we're a nonprofit and we're not there to make money, but we have to cover our expenses."
Operating expenses for the 1,400-square-foot gallery average $4,000 a month, according to the Arts Council — a target the group says it hasn't met by "a long shot."
Hayes said the sale should close in June. He declined to reveal who has the property under contract, except to say their vision would fit well with downtown Asheville. The building sits in between Posana Cafe and Mast General Store.
According to Buncombe County tax records, the property at 11 Biltmore is valued at $357,100. The organization plans to use the money from the sale to pay off debts, including the mortgage on the adjacent building at 13 Biltmore (which houses the Arts Council's offices as well as the front office for Sunset Falls at Bald Creek, a gated community in Haywood County).
The organization sold another building to about three years ago, noted Hayes, calling it "a necessary sale."
The decision comes as part of an overall revisioning and restructuring by the group, which was founded in 1952 as the Civic Arts Council. The nonprofit has experienced a series of wrenching changes recently. Last year saw the departure of both Executive Director Angela Martinez and board Chair Janice Lierz.
Martinez resigned in September, citing the her father's declining health, and the Arts Council has been without an executive director since then. Lierz stepped down to focus on her family and her business, according to a press release sent out at the time. The council also canceled its popular fundraiser, the annual Color Ball, last year due to the difficult economy.
Hayes said the Arts Council hopes to hire a new director by early fall and get the organization to a healthy and sustainable place.
"We're trying to figure out what the community needs," he explained. "We're hoping that this is going to position us to fulfill our role in the future. So hopefully the outcome is going to be a positive one."