Budget crunch forces staff cuts at Carbondale Clay Center
September 24, 2009
CARBONDALE – The nonprofit Carbondale Clay Center will try to go it alone as a mostly volunteer organization, after a mounting budget crunch forced the center to lay off its director and other paid staff this week.
“It was a situation where we basically had a couple of months [of funding] left,” said Clay Center board member Sarah Moore, who along with some other board members will volunteer to keep the Clay Center’s resident-artist, classes and drop-in programs running.
“We really felt, at this point, that financially we needed to restructure in order to stay on our feet and try to look to the future,” Moore said.
The decision meant that the Clay Center had to lay off executive director Lauren Kearns who had been with the organization for the past five years.
“The Carbondale Clay Center would like to thank Lauren for her hard work, passion and dedication as director,” Moore said in a prepared statement sent out Tuesday. “She brought a vision and energy to the Clay Center that was well appreciated within the community.
“We are very sad to lose her, and wish her the best,” she said.
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Moore said Kearns will continue to teach a class at the Clay Center for the time being. Kearns could not be reached for comment on what her future holds.
The Clay Center’s administrative assistant, Marcia Johnson, was already planning to leave the valley, Moore said, and the position will not be rehired. A part-time studio technician will be the only paid position for now, she said.
“We have to make sure the kilns still fire, and those sorts of operational things,” she said.
The bottom line is that difficult financial times, particularly in the nonprofit art sector, have resulted in reduced funding in the way of donations and grants this year, she said.
The Clay Center sent out a plea for financial support in late May when its biggest annual fundraising event, La Dolce Vita [formerly Cajun Clay Night], was held. The event was well-attended, Moore said, but the financial woes are deeper than that.
“We’ve really struggled for the last year, but it was really since May that we had to face up to the fact that the situation was getting more dire instead of better,” she said. “We have high hopes, and we think that with the restructure we will be able to turn things around.”
A new fundraiser for the Clay Center, Wheels on Wheels, takes place this Saturday. The event is a collaboration between locals artists and avid bike commuters, along with the Stomparillaz Brigade, which organizes Carbondale’s monthly moonlight cruiser rides.
Beginning at 6 p.m. at the Clay Center, 135 Main St., the event will include an art bike contest, bike-building demonstrations, music, libations and food. Proceeds will support CCC’s year-round ceramic art programming. A moonlight cruiser ride will begin at 9 p.m.
“It will be a very community oriented fundraiser, and we are still aiming to be a community center for activities,” Moore said.