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Friday, March 16, 2012

Pratt Fine Arts Center Struggles and Needs a Change

Posted by on Fri, Mar 16, 2012 at 2:15 PM

Pratt Fine Arts Center is in the middle of "a perfect storm," says its interim director, Ann Suter.

Fundraising is down at the community school. The holiday sale netted half of what was budgeted. And a few years ago, Pratt ran out of capital campaign funds, so absorbed the capital debt of the land into its operating budget, which is now $130,000 a year. The year that happened, so did the economic downturn.

Nothing drastic is changing at Pratt—yet. "We're running a regular program right at the moment," Suter says. Only one change comes in spring: five-dollar Fridays, where enrolled students could use any studio for only $5, won't be available anymore (so that the studios can be rented out).

Then, in summer, when an average 90 classes are usually offered, there will probably be only 30, Suter says. Only the most popular classes will remain. She did not know yet which classes would be cut.

Michelle Bufano, who was Pratt's executive director until she left a few months ago to take over at the burgeoning Chihuly Garden and Glass, says, "It's March: two months before the auction, and every year, that was a really tough time."

The Pratt auction—this year is its 30th anniversary—is May 5.

The auction brings in 50 percent of Pratt's budget of $2.5 million. The other half of income is earned, from tuition and fees.

"The auction model has to change," Bufano says Pratt has known for some time. "We were working toward 60 percent earned, 40 percent support."

Before Bufano left, Pratt finished a $500,000 project to build a wood studio. The Allen Foundation gave some money for planning, which both Bufano and Suter said helps. "Paying off the land or selling half the property will change everything," Bufano says.

In related news:
—Chihuly Garden and Glass opens in May (tentative date: May 21). Damn, that's soon!
Sev Shoon Arts Center, a community print studio opened in 1991 by Swiss artist Dionne Haroutunian, is closing. "It has been a huge amount of work, with endless challenges and endless rewards," she wrote in an email announcement. "And the reality is: it still demands a great amount of my energy and time. I feel that I'm just at that age when I'm still young enough, and still have a lot of energy, to pursue other goals that I am also passionate about. ...It looks like there is interest in exploring possibilities —- like creating a new printmaking group that would rent the space from BallardWorks and purchase some of the equipment from me."


Comments (3) RSS

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rob! 1
Wondering if Michelle Bufano is any relation to sculptor Benny Bufano.
Posted by rob! on March 16, 2012 at 4:05 PM · Report this
So what's your point. Bufano drove Pratt into the ground and now she's taking over Chihuly Inc?
Posted by dj007 on March 16, 2012 at 7:53 PM · Report this
The sad truth is that Pratt has been mismanaged over the past several years, and that is the reason why their fundraisers have plummeted far more this year than the economy has.

I love Pratt's mission and have taken several classes a year there since I moved to Seattle longer ago than I care to admit. I want Pratt to succeed, but I don't know if they can without confronting their skeletons. They expanded their facilities beyond their means during a recession which limited their ability to deal with setbacks. And their last set of leaders, who have all departed within the past year, left behind a huge financial mess - not least the fact that they employed many people to run their open studio days without pay.

Pratt's new leadership would benefit by being transparent about their finances and their compliance with labor laws, as a non-profit should be. A lot of their donors have been reluctant to re-up until these issues are addressed. Dig a little deeper into why so many of Pratt's program directors have quit recently - it will be more enlightening than these liberally-quoted press releases.
Posted by K3 on March 16, 2012 at 11:18 PM · Report this

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