Theirs is a difficult task, not because the museum isn’t already one of downtown’s prized attractions but because it operates on a slim budget as a nonprofit entity.
Sustained on the strength of memberships, corporate partners, event sponsors, meeting room rentals and fundraisers, the museum has become an integral part of Cleveland and Bradley County since its opening on Sept. 11, 1999. It has become a longstanding destination for classroom field trips, tourists, corporate gatherings, civic affairs, weddings, guest speakers and visiting executives who are evaluating Cleveland as a potential location for future business expansion.
Yet the museum’s operating margin is like straddling a tight wire. One tilt in either direction could mean continued success or fiscal strain.
Such circumstance is not the product of human error. It is merely the life of those within the nonprofit world who rely on limited outside revenue, grants and private donations for existence. The museum’s challenges grew earlier this year with the resignation of its executive director, Lisa Simpson Lutts, who returned to her New England homeland following a five-year stint in Cleveland.
Since her departure, the museum has operated with the barest of skeleton crews. Longtime staffer Ken Cagle is running day-to-day operations and the volunteer-based board of trustees is overseeing all administrative duties.
Such accounts of unprecedented challenge facing nonprofits during the uncertainties of this 5-year-old recession have been told in previous editions of our newspaper. Two that come to mind are United Way of Bradley County Inc. and Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region. Both are exploring new ways to reach the community while infusing new faces and fresh ideas into their operations.
The Museum Center at Five Points and its thinly stretched staff, dedicated board members and unblinking core of volunteers are credits to our community. Their perseverance has preserved the unique heritage under one roof that defines Bradley County and it has cradled the memories of a past age and a beloved people.
The museum has supported our Cleveland hometown for 13 glorious years. Now let us return the favor by showing our support at its next community event. We speak of the Five Points Arts Festival which launches tonight with a sneak preview party (reservation deadline was Wednesday), but the action swings into high gear Saturday and Sunday.
Some 45 artists and authors will feature their jewelry, blown glass, water color, oil and print paintings, carved and turned wood, fabric art, elegant functional and ornamental pottery, stained glass, photography and handmade musical instruments. The festival is free and open to the public Saturday and Sunday.
One talent to be featured is the Native American wood sculpting of Michael Graham, a Cleveland resident whose innovative style has already captured the attention of popular outlets such as the prestigious Mason Murer Gallery in Atlanta. Other artists debuting at the festival are Sandy Brown, Athens; Burney Tompkins, Ooltewah; Aloha and Bonnie Buffington, Calhoun; and Simone Hahn, who recently arrived from Germany.
The weekend festival Saturday runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the cool comfort of the museum, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the First Street Square. On Sunday, the art celebration continues in the museum from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and in the courtyard from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Looking for a place to visit this weekend? Try out the Five Points Arts Festival. Whether inside the museum or outside along the perimeter, it will be some down time well spent with family, friends and even by yourself.