Upstate Artists Guild (UAG), a non-profit organization devoted to bringing artistic culture and education to Albany, is in danger of losing its headquarters. This 800-square-foot gallery on Lark Street is the home base to the creators of 1st Friday, a monthly art event involving more than forty local businesses. It also houses numerous art exhibits, music shows, poetry slams, workshops, movie screenings, lectures and more. On December 6, UAG President Rebecca Schoonmaker announced the $500 Challenge, a fundraiser which reaches out to UAG members and the community in order to avoid being evicted from the gallery.
“If we lost the gallery, the guild would still exist, but it’s a meeting place that is important to our members and community,” said Schoonmaker.
UAG’s secretary, Nina Stanley, expressed similar sentiments. “We would be able to host shows out of other venues,” said Stanley, “but it wouldn’t be consistent enough. Many artists would lose a place to show their work and we would possibly have to face the loss of 1st Friday.”
Although the UAG has been working on extending its line of credit, it isn’t enough to cover back rent and other bills. The major streams of revenue that they normally rely on have slowed to a trickle. Between the recession and the UAG not wanting to turn away local artists, funds including membership fees, submission fees, art sales and suggested exhibit donations have fallen off.
“Most artists are starving artists,” said Schoonmaker. “We don’t like to discriminate if someone doesn’t have the money.”
Even though many artists do not have the funds to directly donate $500, they are finding creative solutions to raise money. Bands and poets who have previously performed at the gallery are planning to put on shows with the proceeds benefitting the guild. UAG member Bill Petit hosted an art party at his home. Members Adam Furgang and Blair Allen sold prints and painted hats to donate the profits. In addition to that, the UAG is planning an art gala benefit with a silent auction, as well as a bowl-a-thon; almost $4000 was raised at their last bowl-a-thon.
“If we had half of our 120 members donate $500 for us, we would be sustainable for now,” said Schoonmaker. “We need to raise at least $200 a week to stay open.”
The UAG hopes to do more than just save the gallery. There are plans to make the $500 Challenge a continuous fundraiser as a means to establish a sustainable cash flow. With the stress of recession pinching alternative funding, the UAG can only hope members of the community will be supportive in their time of need.
“If we lost the gallery, there would definitely be a loss of artistic culture in the immediate area,” said Stanley. “Even now we don’t coordinate as many art exhibits, music performances, workshops, et cetera, as we would like to. And without the gallery, it would be hard to do anything at all.”