A $15 million downtown Carrboro development with tremendous implications for the town received a predictably mixed reaction during a public hearing Tuesday night in packed Carrboro Town Hall.
Some locals offered concerns about the financial risks of the proposed Carrboro Arts and Innovation Center, a four-story, 55,000-square-foot structure at East Main and Roberson streets which would house Carrboro's long-running ArtsCenter and Kidzu Children's Museum, currently located in Chapel Hill.
Others, such as former Carrboro mayors Mark Chilton and Ellie Kinnaird, urged town leaders not to miss this chance. Supporters said the facility would have an estimated $320 million economic impact over 25 years.
"This is such a great opportunity," said Betsy Bennett, co-chairwoman of the Kidzu board of directors.
Tuesday's hearing drew so much public interest that town leaders said they would continue the hearing on Feb. 3.
The Arts and Innovation Center was initially estimated to cost $12.1 million, with $4.6 million in funding requested from the town. But project backers presented different numbers Tuesday night, announcing they needed $15 million, evenly split between public and private sources, to make the project happen.
Supporters said the building—which would serve as a performing arts space as well as the children's museum—would be a major boon for Carrboro and its businesses, a sentiment shared by many who spoke Tuesday.
"I couldn't be more excited," said Betsy Bertram, manager of Townsend Bertram & Co., an outdoor outfitter located in Carrboro's Carr Mill Mall. "I couldn't think of anything better for Carrboro's future."
Wendy Smith, co-owner of Cameron's Gift Shop in the neighboring 300 E. Main St. development, said she expects performances at the center would increase foot traffic at local businesses.
However, others echoed the concerns of some members of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, questioning whether the small Orange County municipality should be asked to help finance the center and take on its risks. The nonprofit ArtsCenter, which serves as a performing arts space and works in local schools to support arts education, has been troubled by budget shortfalls in the last decade.
"We need to proceed with caution," said Brad Bonneville, a downtown Carrboro resident and owner of Bonneville Electric on Maple Avenue. "This is a risky venture and it could be dangerous for Carrboro."
Others said the town should invest the funds in infrastructure needs, citing frequent flooding and drainage concerns in some Carrboro neighborhoods.
Nathan Milian, manager of Carr Mill Mall, said the town should first determine where the center's patrons would park.
"The town should not rush to judgment," Milian said.
A building proposal with dramatic implications for downtown Carrboro goes before the Board of Aldermen tonight.
As reported in last week's Indy, town officials will hold a public hearing to consider partnering with The ArtsCenter and Kidzu Children's Museum to build a four-story, 55,000-square-foot home for the nonprofits at the corner of East Main and Roberson streets.
The proposal, which has received an icy reception from town leaders thus far, calls for the town to put $4.5 million into the $12.1 million center, with the nonprofits responsible for generating the remaining $7.6 million.
Backers of The ArtsCenter and Kidzu say the new center would generate millions in revenues for surrounding Carrboro business owners. But some critics say the nonprofits are asking the town to take on an enormous risk in supporting the development. The site currently includes town-leased public parking.
Tonight's hearing is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Carrboro Town Hall on West Main Street. If you cannot attend, it will be broadcast on television on Gov-TV and through the Town of Carrboro's website here.
North Carolina’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $1.24 billion in direct economic activity, and the Triangle region led the state, accounting for just under a third of the total amount in 2010. Moreover, in a time when economic growth has been scarce, jobs in the state’s creative industry have grown by more than 3.5 percent since 2006. Those numbers were among the findings announced Monday in Winston-Salem when the North Carolina Arts Council released the results of a statewide study into the economic impact of the arts.
The study, “Arts and Economic Prosperity IV,” also found that arts and cultural spending generated more than $119 million in tax revenues for local and state governments, supporting more than 43,000 jobs in North Carolina in 2010.
One of the study’s more significant findings was that a nonprofit sector constituting just 2 percent of North Carolina’s total creative industry generated more than five times that amount of the industry’s direct gross domestic product, accounting for 11 percent of all industry spending in 2010. “The fact ... illustrates again just how powerful, profitable and important our nonprofit organizations are to the overall creative industry of North Carolina,” said Linda Carlisle, Secretary of Cultural Resources.
Ardath Weaver, director of research for the North Carolina Arts Council, noted the difference between the state’s support for nonprofits and the return it receives. “When you look at the amount of seed money invested from the public sector into these organizations, you see a huge return that their activities bring back to the coffers of state and local government,” Weaver said. “The amount of state funding we give out in grants to these organizations is $6.8 million. That returns $62.3 million to the state in tax revenue.” An additional $56.6 million is also generated in local tax revenues.
“We hear a lot of talk about supporting the arts, but I think this study shows that the arts support us,” noted Steve Berlin, vice-chairman of the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. “Arts create jobs, generate tax revenue and make tremendous contributions to our community.”
In the Triangle, nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and their patrons generated $390 million in direct economic activity in 2010, accounting for 14,882 jobs. They generated $19.7 million in state tax revenue and $17.7 million in local tax revenues.
The North Carolina study, which drew on fiscal information from 957 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and more than 19,000 audience surveys from across the state, was conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology as part of a national economic impact study effort by Americans for the Arts, a Washington-based advocacy group.
In focusing only on nonprofit and government facilities, the survey did not include for-profit enterprises (including the movie and gaming industries), or individual artists and creative workers. Not all eligible organizations participated in the study, so the report notes that its findings are probably an understatement of the industry’s actual economic impact.
The study found that more than 25.7 million people across the state attended events and facilities sponsored by the reporting organizations in 2010, spending an average of $23.37 on refreshments, meals, ground transportation and lodging beyond ticket prices.
“More than 47,000 creative for-profit and nonprofit establishments are making a difference in our state,” Carlisle said. “This latest study shows even more strongly that an investment in the arts is an investment in a growth industry.”
Update: The Joe Rowand Art Gallery was vandalized Saturday, Nov. 26, according to a Chapel Hill police report. Two large flower pots were broken, the business' banner sign was torn and the building was spray painted. Damage is valued at $1,100. No arrests have been made. The report is here. policereport.pdf
The Indy redacted some personal information for privacy reasons.
After declaring personal bankruptcy last year, Joe Rowand, former president of the now-defunct Somerhill Gallery, is auctioning 164 pieces from his own art collection Dec. 2–3 at Leland Little Auction and Estate Sales in Hillsborough.
Rowand filed for individual bankruptcy around the time Somerhill declared Chapter 7. The gallery owed artists hundreds of thousands of dollars for their work; this included some pieces that had been sold several years ago but for which the artists were not paid a commission. Meanwhile, according to court records, Rowand was drawing a $15,000 monthly salary from the gallery.
Ironically, Rowand’s personal cache, available online at llauctions.com, contains works by two artists listed as creditors in the Somerhill bankruptcy: Ginny Stanford of California, whom Somerhill owed $13,000, and John Beerman of Hillsborough, $40,000. These assets are not part of the gallery, and thus separate from any corporate legal proceedings.
Now legally absolved of his Somerhill debt through bankruptcy, (although since he didn’t pay the artists, one could question whether he has met the ethical obligation), Rowand has a new gallery on Legion Road in Chapel Hill.
Joe Rowand, who owes artists thousands of dollars after declaring bankruptcy last year, is opening his new gallery, tomorrow in Chapel Hill.
Over the past several years, Roward pulled down a $15,000 monthly salary while his previous enterprise, Somerhill Gallery, owed artists at least $270,000 in commissions on works that had been sold but for which they were never paid.
And in some cases, the artists said, they were told by the gallery that their pieces had not sold when in fact, they had.
Last year Somerhill declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy and closed; its debts included $200,000 in back rent and another $200,000 to the estate of the late philanthropist Rolf Rosenthal.
Most of the Somerhill artists are still waiting to be paid. An auction held in September 2010 generated $91,560 according to court documents, but the proceeds went first to major creditors, including banks and Scientific Properties, the gallery’s landlord.
But what Rowand is doing—starting a new business—is legal, according to Sara Conti, an attorney who had sought damages on behalf of the artists. As long as Rowand doesn’t use the Somerhill name or sell works that were protected in the bankruptcy filing, he can launch a new gallery.
The Indy called Rowand today and asked if any proceeds from the new business could go toward paying debts to Somerhill artists. He said it he was on a ladder installing light bulbs. Asked if he could speak later by phone, he said he did not want to comment.
The Joe Rowand Art Gallery hosts its grand opening tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is located at 1713 Legion Road, down the street from Crooks Atrium Café.
Spring is in the air. Heaps of little creatures are prepping for debut, from bitty bunnies to budding bulbs and... lucky little cork gnomes, as the Indy staff has learned.
The news came in an "a-gnome-ymous" letter of Lilliputian proportion, attached to this little guy (or gal?). Locals will start spotting these little cuties beginning March 20, according to the message.
It seems they were inspired in part by last year's garden-gnome spottings across Durham, which were documented on a local blog, as well as here at the Indy website. (In fact, we even placed random gnome in one issue last year!)
Despite the gnome-nappings of last year, the "population is back on the rise," the letter said. And in this case, the letter says, it's actually good luck to take these little corkers home.
The very small gnomes, called "korknisse" are being tracked at the Cork Gnome Home.
Somerhill Gallery President Joe Rowand lives in a 4,500-square-foot mansion filled with fine art on a 22.5-acre estate outfitted with a saltwater swimming pool and separate guest quarters—yet his gallery owes nearly $200,000 in back rent and $277,000 to artists whose work it consigned. somerhillcreditorlist.pdf
And during the gallery’s financial meltdown, Rowand has drawn a $15,000 monthly salary, according to federal bankruptcy court documents. (See pages 4-5 of the document.) motiontopay.pdf
Somerhill declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year, but converted it to Chapter 7 last week.
The gallery, which moved from Chapel Hill to Durham in 2008, is housed in a 9,663-square-foot space on the first floor of the Venable Building, 302 E. Pettigrew St., in Durham. Scientific Properties owns the building. Monthly rent is $17,762, according to court documents; the gallery has not paid rent for almost a year.
Scientific Properties has asked the court to require the gallery pay rent and fees and to vacate the premises. In that document, Scientific Properties cites a monthly debtor report showing that in both May and June, Rowand received $15,583 in salary and an additional $3,384 in health insurance.
The gallery has asked to stay in the Venable Building until it can move to a new space, which is not named in court documents.
Rowand was not available for comment Monday afternoon on the bankruptcy, his salary or the gallery’s move.
Other debts include $200,000 to philanthropist Rolf Rosenthal of Locust Valley, N.Y. He and his wife, Elizabeth, headed a charitable foundation that funded many artistic programs, including episodes of PBS’ American Masters series. Rosenthal died in February 2009.
In May, the monthly debtor report shows that “the gallery sold consigned property for $10,252, yet had not paid the persons who consigned the art.” The gallery hopes to raise $264,000 in a liquidation sale of its assets.
(H/T BullCityRising on the Chapter 7 news.)
The Town of Chapel Hill is calling for the safe return of “our missing little girl” after someone pilfered a $16,000 sculpture from the lawn of the Chapel Hill Museum on Franklin Street.
“We aren’t interested in pressing charges or anything like that,” he says. “We just would like our little girl back.”
The sculpture, “Landing,” by Florida-based artist Cecilia Lueza, is on loan to Chapel Hill as part of the 2009-2010 Sculpture Visions exhibit, which features several pieces throughout the town.
York says this is the first art theft the town has experienced in six years.
“I’m very disappointed,” he said. “It’s obvious that somebody had to really want it, or at least want it off its stand, because it was attached to a five-inch steel pipe that it looks like somebody sawed through to get it.”
The 6-feet-tall-by-5-feet-wide sculpture was lifted earlier this month and reported to the police last week. It was installed in October and was set to be taken down in three months. Town property insurance will cover the cost if the sculpture does not resurface.
“We just really hope that someone will have a change of heart and bring it back,” York says.
Anyone with information should contact the Public Arts Office at 968-2750 or email@example.com.
Thursday morning, the chairman and commissioner of North Carolina’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission denied the City of Raleigh and Harris Wholesale the advertising exemptions necessary to put Bud Light’s name and logo on the $2.5 million downtown space. The decision would have set a new precedent for the state, which does not allow public buildings to be named for alcoholic products.
“The Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission is not here to condemn alcohol as an industry, but we are here to regulate the alcohol industry,” said Chairman Jonathan Williams after seven representatives of various religious, legal and social organizations spoke against the name. “And it’s a highly competitive industry. The dynamics of opening up this kind of competition in the advertising field would be difficult to contain. For that reason, I am inclined against granting the exemption.”
Williams went on to wish the city well in its search for a new sponsor to replace funds—$300,000 annually—lost with the nixed proposal, calling it “a wonderful project and a wonderful asset for the community.”
As reported in an Independent Weekly story earlier this month, if Raleigh Convention Center, which manages the new venue, cannot find a sponsor, the financial burden will fall to tax payers. The city, meanwhile, might fall behind in its seven-year plan to pay for the space.
“As a taxpayer, I know the cost of increased alcohol advertising is way more than what the city needs to cover its costs,” said Aidil Collins, a coordinator at Youth Empowerment Solutions, an organization that pays teenage students statewide to speak out against alcohol and tobacco marketing in North Carolina.
Just before the hearing drew to a close, Collins led three Raleigh high school students into the meeting room. They took turns holding a massive sign that read, “How will your vote protect me?” and delivering prepared remarks about the potential impact of the exemption.
Representatives of the Raleigh Convention Center and City of Raleigh did not speak, though they offered to answer any public questions about the proposal. The convention center’s assistant director, Doug Grissom, did not return phone calls about the decision Thursday morning, though the city did issue a press release looking for new sponsors less than an hour after the decision was delivered.
“This is a very attractive venue that has great appeal to other potential sponsors,” Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said in the statement. “The City is actively pursuing other name and title opportunities to defray the costs of operating this facility.”
For all those Durhamites who take great pride in the Bull City, who love equally its grit and glamour, you can still get your "Durham Rocks" and "Durham Love Yourself" stickers, tees and other merch online.
James and Michelle Lee, former purveyors of the now-defunct Untidy Museum and 305 South Anti-Mall, announced today on Durham's arts e-mail list that the items are available through Cafe Press.
This is not meant as a commercial endorsement, but to many, the initial introduction of the "Durham Love Yourself" tees and stickers years ago spurred a larger, more vocal and collective movement toward Durhamite pride, garnering a lot of attention. (And we know many of our Bull City readers wanted to know how to get their hands on them.) So file this in the "special exception" category.
And while we're on the subject of Durham-oriented clothing, check out this amusing video from Wine Authorities, who made T-shirts that say "Durham: crunchy on the outside, warm and delicious on the inside."