Friday, August 28, 2009

Eyedrum auction raises funds but crisis lingers

Posted By on Fri, Aug 28, 2009 at 10:09 PM

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On many levels, the Eyedrum fundraising auction held Aug. 14 was a success. “We raised something in the ballpark of $15,000,” says Robert Cheatham, Eyedrum’s executive director. Despite that success, however, the nonprofit arts organization still faces an uncertain financial future. Paying off debts and accumulated rent took more than $6,000 directly out of that figure, Cheatham says, “You can see how quickly that number starts to shrink.”

The group readily admits it can’t afford the cost of rent for its massive converted industrial space in Grant Park. There's been some talk about moving, but the Board of Directors is divided on the issue. Regardless of some of the board's desire to change locations, its lease on the Grant Park property runs through December of 2010. Negotiations with the landlord, Braden Fellman, have deteriorated. “They’re a landlord, they want their money. They don’t say anything, really, though. They don’t return phone calls, e-mails. We’re frankly confused by their lack of contact,” Cheatham says.

“They’re disturbed by our structure, I understand. They want to hold someone responsible,” he continues.  Hormuz Minina, a former board chairman, originally signed as a guarantor to the lease when the group moved in the current space in 2001. Though he’s no longer involved with the group, Minina is being held accountable by Braden Fellman. “I’m afraid they’re holding his feet to the fire,” Cheatham says.

The outlook isn't entirely grim, though. A beneficent landlord in Castleberry Hill is offering the group a year of free rent in a large building currently in renovation. Cheatham, who's visited the space, says it probably wouldn’t be ready for at least six months. He’s among the board members who think moving could revitalize interest and open new possibilities for the group. No one's sure exactly how long the auction money combined with programming revenue will keep the group afloat. Cheatham thinks it may buy time until the end of the year. What happens when that time comes around? “We’ll find a way to survive,” Cheatham says.

(Photo by Dustin Chambers)

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