North Branch Arts will close its art center in Edgebrook
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
North Branch Arts will close its art center location at 5421 W. Devon Ave. in Downtown Edgebrook at the end of the year.
"We will continue to be an independent nonprofit maintaining and operating the community garden, administering the Edgebrook School Art Program, and will transfer active art classes to other locations within Downtown Edgebrook," the group said in a statement.
North Branch Arts president Margaret Nagle said that the board of directors voted unanimously to close the storefront and that its popular studio art program will be held at Creativo! Academy, 5407 W. Devon Ave. "Our last studio art at the center will be on Dec. 15. After that it will begin again at Creativo in January," Nagle said.
"Part of the decision for us was we got into a situation of either funding programs or paying rent," Nagle said. "We have begun to explore our options about where in the neighborhood we can branch out to."
In the statement from the group, the board said that operating a full-time art center was not sustainable.
"By reducing out rent-related expenses, we can better focus our efforts and dollars on art programming and services. We remain committed to our mission to advance arts and nature in the community by partnering with and providing integrated programs with local schools and businesses," the statement said.
The group canceled its after school program in the fall because "it was not arts-based but more of a drop-off babysitting option for local parents," North Branch Arts secretary Jennifer Herren said in an e-mail. "This clearly did not fit the mission of North Branch Arts: To provide innovative, educational and multidisciplinary arts experiences to the community. By engaging and enriching participants of all ages, North Branch Arts will foster a love of the arts, an appreciation of the environment and a commitment to the community."
Herren said that the regularly scheduled arts classes have not generated enrollment sufficient to continue to justify the cost of monthly rent.
Nagle said that closing of the after school program was done because it was not as focused "as we would have wanted."
"Initially we began an after school program because at the time Edgebrook School didn’t offer any options like that. None of that exited when we started in the neighborhood 7 years ago," Nagle said.
Nagle said that the group will continue to provide a summer camp program, which is very popular, and that it will be looking for a new place to host its annual "Art of Comedy" fund-raiser.
"We did not think that the construction in Edgebrook was the issue here (in the decision to close the storefront)," Nagle said. She said that programming over the summer was "quite successful."
"The point is we’re not going away. We’re just closing the storefront. It was an economic decision," she said.