Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Spacetaker/Fresh Arts Merger

by Robert Boyd

News of the merger of Fresh Arts and Spacetaker have been popping up here and there in the past 24 hours. Here is CultureMap's reporting:
Fresh Arts Coalition and Spacetaker are tying the knot. The groups' boards of directors announced a merger Tuesday, which is scheduled to be completed in several months. [...]
The new entity will be wed as Fresh Arts. According to Spacetaker's website, the name is aligned with the missions of both nonprofits and share a joint vision for the future.
It's already been determined that Jenni Rebecca Stephenson, Spacetaker's executive director, will be at the helm of the consolidated operations. Wells Fargo vice president of business development Harry McMahan will lead a joint 14-member board. A new website is in the works.[...]
"A significant aspect of successful marketing is leveraging public relations and advertising, " Stephenson says. "Spacetaker has historically been very strong in the public relations realm, whereas Fresh Arts has had a large advertising reach. Combining these two components strategically will result in better results in both arenas."
Spacetaker and Fresh Arts have previously implemented education workshops, outdoor festivals like Julydoscope at Discovery Green and the ARTernative Festival at CityCentre and Sugar Land's Town Square.
Sure, there are small areas where their offerings intersect and overlap. From an outsider's view, it may appear that both organizations tread in similar waters. But they don't.
Think of Spacetaker as a support system for emerging artists of any genre. At its Artist Resource Center, visitors will find cutting edge exhibitions, financial workshops and opportunities to connect with the public. An online portal allows artists to create individual profiles and promote their work. Regular mailings keep artists apprised of work openings and available grants. [...]
Whereas Spacetaker has a strong brand in the indie art community, Fresh Arts is better known to cash-giving philanthropists. [Joel Luks, "Two major Houston arts groups are merging as Jenni Rebecca Stephenson takes a power position", CultureMap, 4/3/2012]

I'm going to sound like a complete idiot here, but I've never quite understood what Spacetaker and Fresh Arts actually do.  I mean, I know about the exhibits at ARC Gallery in Winter St. I get emails every week from Fresh Arts telling me what's happening with a basket of arts organizations. But I know they are both bigger than this.

I took a quick look at their 990s on GuideStar (990s are the forms that non-profits must file with the IRS). The most recent 990 available for Spacetaker is from 2010. Spacetaker had $132 thousand in support (grants and donations) and a whopping $102 thousand in program service revenue (money earned from selling stuff--tickets to events, for example). Their total revenue for 2010 was $235 thousand. Their biggest expenses are salaries ($62 thousand) and artist fees ($66 thousand). My assumption is that these artist fees represent Spacetaker performing their mission: "Spacetaker is a 501(c)3 professional organization and Artist Resource Center located in Houston’s First Ward whose mission is to provide artists and non-profits access to economic development, continuing education, and networking opportunities to support their professional growth." Some of those other expenses also support artists but it's hard to determine how much of their total expenses goes to artists indirectly (for example, there are surely costs associated with ARC exhibits or Cultured Cocktail events which support artists without being direct direct payments to them). That said, 28% of their expenses went directly to artists in 2010. That combined with the indirect support seems pretty good.

Fresh Arts is on a different schedule. Its 2011 990 covers July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011. Almost all of their income is from grants and contributions. Their revenue in this period was $103 thousand. About half of this came from the Glasstire Ball ($55 thousand) which cost $21 thousand to put on. Their other big expense was $60 on marketing, which is entirely in line with their stated mission: "Fresh Arts Coalition is a collaborative of small and mid-sized Houston arts organizations that markets the importance of the arts to the public and builds audience participation through increased visibility, collaborative efforts and advocacy." Fresh Arts spent 39% of their total revenue on marketing arts organizations.

Both organizations had positive net assets (the non-profit equivalent of profit or net income). So this merger is not a "rescue" of a sick organization by a well organization. I'm not sure what to expect from the new Fresh Arts, but I do expect that whatever they choose to do, they'll have plenty of money to do it with.


1 comment:

  1. Spacetaker holds a lot of workshops for artists that range form learning to manage your finances, develop PR skills, writing proposals to get grants, learning about copyright laws etc, When one has a show at their gallery they take care of absolutely everything except making the art. They also try to guide you in the process of promoting the show as best as they can. They contact local media for interviews ande much more. They literally overwork themselves to make sure everything goes well with your show. I think Spacetaker is one of the best organizations in town helping artists. I am not sure about what Fresh Arts does, but I guess we are about to find out. Excited about the marriage.