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A shout-out for the NWFF Annie? What's that, like, a penance or something? Did reading about The Empty Space closing put you in a generous mood? Or are you just really good friends with Mudede?

Posted by John Galt | October 27, 2006 4:30 PM

I want to second "CHAC is a great org." It is, and more arts orgs should abandon the non-profiit model.

Posted by Dan Savage | October 27, 2006 4:40 PM

NWFF is definitely worthy of being on this list!

I think it's great for arts orgs to embrace the for-profit model - but they have no business soliciting individual donations.

Posted by genevieve | October 27, 2006 8:16 PM

Are you kidding me? The list of people CHAC has screwed over during the course of it's lifetime is full of absurdly quality folk. "Great org"? Dan you need to do your homework. Not only has CHAC failed to live up to it's original goal of being an arts center (and become nothing more than a rave warehouse for all the kids), but the fact that it's founder is a venture capitalist spoiled child with severe distortions of what it's like to be an artist (as in, he's never been one, and has never had to want for anything) has informed every horrible decision (least of which is managing to sleep with at least one woman in every generation of employee in his tenure) made for the organization. For profit? Ha, ask to see their numbers... last the rumor mill had it "CHAC" was nothing but "grad school" for it's founder.

I'm glad it exists, and because it's funded by a wealthy businessman it has been able to withstand some severe hardships, but don't think it's profitable without knowing the numbers Dan, you'll end up looking like an idiot when a Starbucks opens up in that space.

Posted by Nancy del Mar | October 28, 2006 2:55 AM

Ouch. Somebody sounds a teensy bit jealous, maybe for good reason, but still, it's pretty clear you have serious personal issues around the space and its owner that are preventing you from looking at the real story there.

Since CHAC stopped producing (a mere four months ago), it has converted its mainstage into a four-wall rental venue used extensively by other arts producing organizations (Joe Boston, Annex Theatre, Ladykiller Productions, 14/48), hosted even more theatrical productions in the Lower Level space, provided a new home for one of Seattle's most respected fringe companies (Annex), in addition to parties, raves, music and dance concerts, reading series, and other arts-related programming.

Perhaps your bitterness has kept you away, but if that's the case you should really try to let go of whatever personal baggage you're carrying around and check out some of the actual work being done there; you might be pleasantly surprised.

As to CHAC's profitability, well, as you point out, it's a privately owned for-profit establishment. If the owner feels that continuing to put money into it is in his - and any silent partners - best interests, it's really nobody else's business whether it's making money right now or not.

Posted by COMTE | October 28, 2006 11:51 AM

I agree that the profitability of a for-profit business is no one's biz but the owners - that's one of the advantages of NOT being a non-profit organization. But this does point out that being a "for-profit" company does not automatically translate to actual profits.

It's not helpful to just throw out there "more arts orgs should abandon the non-profit model" without ideas of how to make the for-profit model work. CHAC is NOT a good example of a for-profit arts org IMO. Even discounting Nancy's del Mar's allegations of how CHAC stays afloat, the fact that CHAC had to alter its programming and essentially become a rental facility tells me that their original artistic vision was unsustainable in the for-profit model. The CHAC can still be considered a great space for art, but I don't give them credit for the programming created by their renters. I don't see the CHAC as being a rallying cry for the for-profit arts movement.

Posted by genevieve | October 28, 2006 2:29 PM


These are all very good points, although I would note that it is rare for any profit-making venture to be cash-positive coming out of the gate. Most for-profit business models anticipate a few years of unprofitable operation, and so it's not necessarily a denigration of the model that CHAC is not at that point after only three years in existence. Heck, something like 60% of all small businesses fail within the first year, so in that sense they're already way ahead of the curve.

And I view the fact that the business model was changed as being positive. Many entrepreneurs would simply "stay the course" with their original plan, even if it clearly wasn't working, rather than admit the model was flawed and modify it into something more feasible.

Whether the new model will eventually become a profit-making one is certainly not guaranteed, but at least it indicates there is some awareness and flexibility on the part of management.

Posted by COMTE | October 28, 2006 4:34 PM

Comte, good point about most businesses not being profitable at first. Whle I agree that businesses that are willing to change to fit the market are more likely to survive, what I found disturbing/disappointing about CHAC's change (and why I find them more of a cautionary tale than a model) is that they went from producing art (i.e. actively being involved in the creation of art, although not being creators themselves, and creating both opportunities and jobs for artists) to being a facilitator of other people's creativity with little to no involvement other than a rental contract. On a balance sheet, it made sense, but on an artistic level, I see it as a step down. Hopefully CHAC will be able to stabilize and start bringing back more productions of their own to balance out their rental hall activities.

My concern is that the Stranger (or maybe it's just Dan) seems to be promoting this idea that the non-profit model is no longer a viable choice, and I think artists need to know that there are pros and cons to either model.

I've worked with arts groups using both models and don't think one is inherently better than the other. It really depends on what the people starting the org want to do, what their resources are, and how important it is for the founders to have the organization to be identified with them personally.

Posted by genevieve | October 28, 2006 6:00 PM

Thanks for the link Annie. BTW, they were #1 in alphabetical sense only but still sorry about the bad info. I got confused by something I was reading about Theatre Puget Sound. As for giving to NWFF, we'll probably continue to support them by going to the flicks.

While you're fact checking, let us know if you find out any of these places on Capitol Hill aren't really haunted.

Posted by j | October 29, 2006 12:34 PM

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