Happy New Year! I hope everyone is safe and is gearing up for a prosperous 2022!
Unfortunately, for many of our fans and patrons of the arts, it will be another year without a brick-and-mortar home for Arthaus Projects. As many of you know, 2020 was a really difficult year for the gallery. We had aspirations for a jam-packed year of art shows and special events, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were forced to close our doors and cancel many events including the inaugural launch of the Billtown Comedy Festival. As we stayed abreast of the safety mandates and tried to adapt, another thing was brewing behind the scenes: the sale of the building that we called home for over ten years. Arthaus Projects and its sister companies made a number of attempts to purchase and secure our permanence in downtown Williamsport but the complexity of the loan came at a time when banks were behaving more conservatively than in any other point of recent memory. Thus, with no banks willing to write a loan for the purchase of our downtown location, the building owners started looking at other companies to purchase the space. Unfortunately, the company that showed the most interest is a direct competitor to one of our sister companies (The Graphic Hive), so we had to come up with a plan B.
Arthaus Projects saw much potential in a large industrial building in South Williamsport. It had plenty of space for all of the operations of The Graphic Hive and had a very promising open space on the second floor which was nicknamed “The Penthouse.” This would be a perfect space for the gallery, and an amazing space to host our special events. Even better than that, the building was broken up into multiple suites with three tenants occupying 3 of the 4 suites, which made the banks more willing to lend us the money to purchase the building.
We officially moved into the new space in August of 2020 and started planning out the new venue. We hired an architect to come up with a plan to address the main concern of accessibility for the building. With the gallery space on the second floor, we could not open our doors while excluding anyone with transportation-based disabilities from experiencing the innovative art we have been presenting for the past decade. We reached out to several elevator companies and received vague estimates ranging from $50,000 to $80,000, and we were faced with the daunting task of fundraising and grant writing. We participated in the 2021 Raise the Region program and raised just over $1,000 towards the cause. Unfortunately, the other fundraisers we attempted either lost money or only earned way under $1,000 for each event.
With fundraising attempts futile, we turned to grants as a way to help fund the project. The First Community Foundation Partnership had a wish list grant which seemed to be a perfect fit for our project. We prepared our application and asked for a few letters of endorsement from members of the local art community. Unfortunately, my requests were met with opposition even from long-time supporters. With such little available funding for the arts, there was competitive concern from competing organizations, and thus, the majority of the requested letters were not received.
After securing letters of recommendation from those outside of the arts community, the grant application was submitted, and we began to anxiously await a response. On Thursday, December 30, 2021, we received a denial letter stating that our grant request was not able to be funded.
So in summary, 2021 was a year met with much opposition and discouragement. At this point, we do not see a promising future in fighting for the lost cause which is the brick and mortar gallery that we used to operate. The gallery is not a sustainable entity on its own (The Graphic Hive has provided the vast majority of the previous funding for the gallery), and the costly bill for the elevator is just completely outside of the available funds allocated for gallery operation. We’ve had a fun run and do not want to say this is the end, but we feel the only real sustainable existence for the gallery would be the occasional pop-up or outdoor event when the weather is appropriate. We’d like to thank everyone who visited the gallery or supported us in some way. Unfortunately, as of this letter, Arthaus Projects will be going away.
If you’d like to support the arts, please be sure and patronize Studio 570 who has taken over our old gallery space. Until we meet again, keep the art in your hearts!