SPOTLIGHT ON SMALL BUSINESS: The Homeric Arts Center: resilience in the event of a pandemic
HOMER – What do you do when the COVID-19 pandemic literally stops your entire operation?
You get creative and pivot into an operation where you stay relevant and fulfill your mission. This is the situation facing the Homeric Center for the Arts – and the approach it has taken to deal with this difficult time.
The Center for the Arts of Homer, a nonprofit organization located at 72 S. Main St. in historic Homer, is one of the premier art presenters in central New York City. Located in what had been the First Baptist Church of Homer, until it grew too large after 200 years, the Center for the Arts came into being when a small group of neighbors gathered in the establishment in 2001.
The Center for the Arts, with its 400-seat “Whiting Theater” and 325-seat Karen Sager Community Hall, presents a diverse series of programs and performances on the main stage by internationally, nationally and regionally renowned artists. The Center also offers film screenings, a community theater program (Center Players), and presents artwork by regional, national and international visual artists in its art gallery. In addition, the 34,000 square foot center hosts a variety of courses, workshops and programs throughout the year.
In March 2020, all events came to an abrupt end with the closure of the Covid-19.
The Center for the Arts of Homer is on a mission to serve the community and organize artistic and cultural events that improve the lives of the audiences it serves, according to Ty Marshal, executive director. The pandemic has put this mission to the test, so Ty and his small staff have decided to face it head-on.
Determined to keep the Center active, the staff of seven continued to work on a reduced basis, often remotely, organizing programming to suit the times. It was, of course, a tall order with no live audiences or stable ticket income. They hung works of art in the shop windows of the main streets of Homer and Cortland for pedestrians to enjoy and keep their awareness of the Center. Staff hosted a 24-hour live telethon over the holidays, working with 12 other Cortland County nonprofits to raise funds, which generated $ 24,000 in much-needed revenue that was split between the groups. The Center for the Arts also hosted the state’s first “in a car concert” at Dwyer County Park and hosted a series of parking lot concerts featuring local and regional talent. The Center has created several other community service programs and projects. Resilience was evident in everything they faced during these trying times.
But where would the income come from to continue even this very low level of activity?
Joe Cortese, the development officer for the Center for the Arts, reached out to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Onondaga Community College to learn more about the federal CARES law (which implemented various financial programs to address problems linked to the onset of the covid pandemic19). The most important and essential for the Center were initially the Economic Disaster Lending Program (EIDL) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
I helped Cortese familiarize himself with the programs and complete the necessary applications. “Until these PPP loans became available, which have now been canceled, we were dependent on our small reserves, but the PPP allowed us to keep our staff of seven on payroll and full time, and that had a profound impact, “Marshal, said the head of the organization.
Making up for lost revenue for an organization like the Homeric Arts Center has of course been a major task, with over 35% of annual revenue coming from concert ticket sales. But the major donors and sponsors, as well as the community at large, have come in a very generous way. And the SBA too.
With the passage by Congress of the Economic Aid for Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Hard-Affected Sites Act in December 2020, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program was established. SVOG created $ 15 billion in closed site grants administered by the SBA’s Disaster Assistance Bureau.
Once again, the Arts Center turned to its SBDC advisor to navigate the somewhat complex application process. The result was a game-changing grant that more than made up for the Centre’s loss of revenue during its shutdown. This grant enabled the Center des arts to continue its youth art classes this summer and to schedule a full program of shows and presentations for the 2021-2022 season. He kept the lights on, and then some.
Executive Director Marshal, reflecting on the past year, said: “We are extremely grateful to all who have helped us during this time, including the generous community, our loyal staff, and the federal grant opportunities that have made it possible for us. to continue. We will be presenting a full program of performances this year, with a focus on the CDC and local COVID-19 guidelines to serve our community in the best possible way. “
Visit the Centre’s website at: www.center4art.org. Visit his Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/Center4TheArts.
Advice from the sales advisor: Communicate: As a startup, nothing is more important than effective communication. Make sure you respond quickly to customer contacts and make effective use of communication channels with mentors and advisors. Effective communication is the essence of good management.
Paul Brooks is a Certified Senior Business Advisor at the Onondaga SBDC Tech Garden satellite office in downtown Syracuse. Contact him at [email protected]