Danville Express

Newsfront - February 23, 2007

Town works with DACA on gallery space

Theater, community center being considered to showcase art

by Natalie O'Neill

The Danville Fine Arts Gallery may have closed its doors, but it's not gone for good.

The Town Council and members of the Danville Area Cultural Alliance are looking for an alternative space for the art gallery, which was located on the second level of the Village Theatre on Front Street.

The previous space presented accessibility issues and failed to attract the necessary pedestrian foot traffic, DACA representatives said. At a meeting with the town last week, they proposed moving downstairs to share the space with Danville Role Players Ensemble Theatre.

"The fine art gallery is a community cultural resource. It has no monetary value; it would be like determining the dollar value of the (Danville) library," said Bill Carmel, president of DACA.

The idea is that the theater-goers will support the art and art-viewers will support the theater.

When the gallery closed itself to the public late last year, many DACA members began pleading with the town for another location.

"We're losing an art gallery and it's happening on your watch," said Fred Turner, DACA secretary.

But Town Council members questioned DACA representatives at a study session last week about a period of unpaid rent, along with what types of services they have provided to the community. They then concluded that the town could accommodate their need for space "to some degree."

"I think we can work through this ... we need to work towards getting you out of the upstairs," said Town Manager Joe Calabrigo.

Supporters pointed out that the space was used for showing middle school art, for conducting art classes and for on-going lectures and demonstrations. The lectures included topics like "Art and Income."

Previously, DACA paid a fixed rental fee of $100 a month, plus 3.5 percent of its gross income. Those numbers have not increased since 1992.

Despite the meager rent, DACA didn't pay rent for over a year, Councilman Newell Arnerich pointed out.

"(The town) is blocking a lot of other groups from using the space and here we have a group who is choosing not to live up to the agreement," he said.

Last year the group had an income of about $28,000, which largely went to advertising and holding events.

In a recent letter to Bill Carmel, Calabrigo also detailed that more than $450,000 in potential rental revenue could have been contributed, since DACA moved into the space in 1989. That number was an estimate on the part of the town, based on the fair market value of the space involved.

"DACA needs to get its act together," Arnerich said.

Members cited trouble with their previous executive director as a major reason for the group's failure to pay rent and noted that she recently left the organization. Carmel, who has been president for about three months, said new members are aware of the importance of operating in a professional way.

"We know that if cultural organizations don't operate like businesses we are going to get no government support at all," Carmel said.

In January, DACA members pointed to the fact that the upstairs was not compliant with the American Disabilities Act and that many of their older students and supporters could not make it up the stairs. This fueled discussion about how functional the space is for DACA's needs.

At last week's meeting, some board members agreed there were other problems, such as inactivity of the board during a transitional period for DACA.

"It's not about the staircase, the staircase is the whipping post - and I'm tired of the whipping post," a founding member of DACA said.

Fundraising will also be important for keeping the nonprofit organization alive, several board members said. Spaces that are currently being looked into include the first floor of the Village Theatre and the Danville Community Center.

"It's a matter of civic pride," Turner said.

Contact Natalie O'Neill at noneill@danvilleweekly.com

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