Rescue the Arts fundraiser in Merced

MERCED, Calif.

The multicultural arts center opened up on main street 15 years ago. But now staff members say a lack of donations could force them to close it down.

This 28 thousand square foot building is home to art displays, dance classes, theatre performances, and even a dark room.

Staci Santa said, "Just on a daily basis there are people who are using this facility so they have a chance to make art, practice art, sell art, express with art, whatever it is they want to do."

The three story multicultural arts center building is owned by the city and run by the Merced County Arts Council. Executive Director Staci Santa says it costs about $100 thousand a year to operate. Grant money pays for some programs, but the council relies on memberships, fundraisers, and donations to cover the rest of the costs. Those have all dropped dramatically since the start of the recession, and the center's reserve money is almost out.

Staci Santa said, "We did have a small reserve, so we hoped for a couple of years we would be able to tap into that until things picked up, and things just aren't picking up as fast as we or anyone else thought they would."

Arts council members have taken pay cuts and trimmed their energy bill by 25 percent, but it's still not enough. So now supporters have launched a Facebook campaign to promote a 24 hour fundraiser involving local businesses next month. Donations may be the only way to keep the center open since the city can't afford to help.

City of Merced Development Manager, Frank Quintero said, "We have roughly a $5-6 million budget deficit ourselves, and what would more than likely happen is it would go dark for awhile until we can rework and assist the multicultural arts center and the arts council in getting back on their feet."

City officials say the center is an important piece of the entertainment hub that helps attract other businesses and residents downtown. And those who work nearby agree.

Flip Hassett said, "It's that energy that we really need to have here, and to even not think of them being here would be just tragic."

The arts center is hosting its biggest fundraiser of the year tomorrow... It's a casino night that starts at 6:30pm and you can get tickets at the door. You can also make donations through the arts center website.

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Merced County Arts Council website with information on how to donate and details on the "Casino Royale" fundraiser for Saturday, May 21st: http://www.artsmerced.org

Facebook page for the "Arts 24" Fundraiser, which starts Friday, June 10th: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=154860384581447

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