“I had a person recently ask me what I do here,” recalls Fred Jarosz, executive director of the Hoogland Center for the Arts. “And I told them, ‘I’m the beggar. I’m the one who goes out and begs for money. Gladly!’”
The role of beggar has never been more important for the Hoogland. The organization has recently gone to the public with a dire financial predicament which could result in the shuttering of the complex, located at 420 S. Sixth St., at the close of 2011, just over eight years after its original opening in December 2003. An untenable $25,000 per month mortgage has reduced all the fundraising efforts of Jarosz and his small, dedicated staff to mere bids for subsistence.
“Since I’ve been here,” says Jarosz, “we have made every payment on time, we have never defaulted with any of the people we owe money to, including very large utility bills. But there comes a point where we’re out of funds. Now, we do have some very gracious donors – for example, our 600 Donor Club [a program which allows individual donors to pay $50 per month, amounting to $600 per year]. If we can get 600 people to give us that $50 a month, our mortgage is paid. But we get to about half and it stops and we have to start all over again.”
There is, however, a light on the horizon – of sorts. A thus-far-unidentified donor has promised to pay $1.3 million to help the Hoogland out of its financial straits. But there is a catch. “These people have said, ‘We will give you a million three, if you can get us a million two to go with it,’” explains Jarosz. “If we do that, we would tie it together, and we’d have no mortgage to worry about. Unfortunately, it’s a double-edged sword, and the other edge is, if we don’t raise the $1.2 million, there will be no matching funds. They won’t give ’em to us.”
Over the better part of the past decade, the Hoogland Center has played an increasingly pivotal role in the Springfield community, to the point where the loss of it now would be nearly incalculable. In addition to the three separate performance spaces housed within the complex, which play host to everything from Springfield Theatre Center productions to concerts by nationally known touring musicians, the Hoogland provides rehearsal and teaching space for programs such as the Sangamon Valley Youth Symphony. It also acts as headquarters for numerous community and arts organizations including the Junior League of Springfield, the Springfield Ballet Company, the Muni Opera, UMEDIA Inc. and the Springfield Area Arts Council.
“I think that if the community started to think about the loss that would occur without the building, they would realize that it is terribly significant,” says Penny Wollan-Kriel, executive director of the Arts Council. “Those of us who are located in this building can just go up a floor or down the hall to meet with one another and brainstorm or discuss or find out what’s happening. And, yes, those of us who are in the building are paying rent, but it’s extremely reasonable. If we were to have to find another space, it would be far more difficult with the kinds of budgets we are all experiencing now.”
Jarosz is even more emphatic. “We can’t let anything happen to this place, this place has to succeed,” he says, simply. “I believe that communities get what they deserve. And I tried to build a slogan for the Hoogland when I first got here: ‘Because dreams deserve a place to grow.’ The Hoogland needs to stay open because dreams deserve a place to grow.”
For details regarding donation options, Jarosz can be reached at 523-2787.
Contact Scott Faingold at email@example.com.