Gappmeyer's departure comes during trying times for the 29-year-old nonprofit arts center. Fund raising is a challenge for most nonprofit arts organizations in Atlanta, but the downturn in the economy and the events of Sept. 11 have made the last six months especially difficult. Coca-Cola's decision to discontinue its annual grant of $25,000 was a particularly bruising blow to the center. Just last month the organization had to cancel an exhibition, lay off two gallery personnel, scale back its lecture program and combine the positions of education director and curator, a position that had been vacant since last fall.
The Montana native says his decision to relocate to Sun Valley was based on his desire to live closer to his family. But it's hard to imagine that The Contemporary's funding problems didn't contribute to his decision. It's worth noting that the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, which has a $1.2 million budget, is in a wealthy community and is well supported. Even though he'll be launching a capital improvement campaign when he arrives, Gappmeyer doesn't anticipate having to spend as much time fund raising as he has at The Contemporary.
While Gappmeyer characterizes his time at The Contemporary as a positive experience, he says it wasn't void of difficulties. "The most challenging thing I faced was the culture in Atlanta, vis-a-vis the support for the arts."
"It's a plum job [Gappmeyer is going to]," says Helena Reckitt, education director and newly named curator at The Contemporary. "It's a wealthy institution with less of a frantic fund-raising pace. Just more funds, so less pressure."
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