Artistic types from the â€œstarving painter in the garretâ€ to the Broadway hopeful who waits tables have traditionally learned to cope with financial problems by applying their gift of creativity.
Exemplifying this strategy locally is Leslie MacWeeney, Executive Director of Dot Art, or the Dorchester Community Center for the Visual Arts, as theÂ non-profit is known legally. Thanks to her foresight and â€œextreme cautiousness,â€ sheâ€™s keeping the beloved Dorchester cultural resource afloat in these stormy financial seas even though revenues from class fees are down by a staggering two-thirds.
â€œWe are not in the RED yet! And plan not to be!â€ she vows. But the task is increasingly difficult.
â€œWe have been scheduling fewer classes. Enrollment in every class is down; so if we run a class, the profit margin is tiny. Â Those classes most severely affected are the free ones and our Shakespeare & Picasso program. Â Â I have been teaching (to save paying an instructor) and doing the Executive Directorâ€™s job as well, so I am crazed!â€
Though Dot Artâ€™s spring 2009 fundraiser Snazzy Jazzy Arty Party attracted Â a record 99 donors and raised more money than in 2008, Â grants which supported theÂ organization in the past have Â all but dried up.
â€œA lot of foundations have changed to a â€˜by invitation onlyâ€™ policy,â€ she observes. Â â€œThis helps them to not have to say no to so many people.â€
Dot Art Board members are redoubling their efforts to secure funds from new sources, with some success. For example, they have done ceramic sales at their places of work, which bring in a small, but needed stream of cash. Theyâ€™reÂ trying toÂ book staffers at local homes for arts and crafts birthday parties. Theyâ€™re soliciting donations to match a challenge grant ofÂ $1,300 (set up by a private donor and former Dorchester resident), which would go directly to the Shakespeare & Picasso program.â€¨
But survival these daysÂ often meansÂ reverting to even more to more primitive strategies like bartering and begging. Last summer when Dot Art simply had no money to rent a space big enough for theÂ 11th season ofÂ its signature â€œPortraitsâ€ program. Vince Droser, of Trinity Financial, saved the day at the last Â momentÂ by offering the sunny storefront in the Carruth Building rent-free for seven weeks.
Unable to continue paying rent at their former 1775 Dorchester Ave location, Dot Art recently relocated to the third floor of Federated Dorchester Neighborhood Houses under a barter arrangement. Â
â€œMark Culliton, CEO of FDNH, has kindly given space to us,â€ MacWeeney explains. â€œIn return we offer slots in our classes to their staff and families. Also IÂ will be teaching some workshops to their staff this semester on early childhood art education, which is a particular interest and strength of mine.â€ â€¨â€¨Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Dot Artâ€™s Winter/Spring offerings reflect sharpened audience-targeting.Â A new courseÂ â€œArt in the Afternoonâ€ Â scheduled 3:45 - 5:45Â is aimed atÂ kids in day programs who canâ€™t come to their morning hours â€œChildrenâ€™s Studio.â€ Practical adult courses like â€œFunctional Tablewareâ€ are booked at Dot Artâ€™s Clay Station pottery studio. Free classes for teens that combine self-expression with life-skills learning include â€œSisters for Changeâ€ and â€œGet Your Art On.â€â€¨Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
For details on these and other classes and on ways you can support the effort, visit dotart.org  or call the office at 617-265-3503.