The Arts Center of Coastal Carolina's latest financial report offers no surprises or insights into the center's operations, only more of what we already know: The center spends more money than it takes in and that's even with a substantial boost from the Town of Hilton Head Island.
Its business model doesn't work. It hasn't worked since the center opened in 1996. It must change. The town's taking ownership of the facility won't accomplish it. That would only shift the center's problems to the town's ledger.
Center officials have asked the town to buy its building -- valued at about $6.5 million after depreciation -- and take on $400,000 in annual upkeep and about $2.5 million of needed improvements.
Here are some other numbers from the fiscal year 2012 audited financial report:
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The arts center is but one part -- albeit a large one -- of the issue of paying for the arts on Hilton Head. It is not the only organization that needs to rethink its mission and operation.
The town, with the leverage it has in accommodations tax funding for these groups, is in a strong position to make this happen. Officials expect to hire a consultant in June to help sort out how to get the arts center and other arts groups on sounder financial footing.
This is a big undertaking. The town's request for proposal lists 32 nonprofit organizations that could part of the project; 13 different types of facilities to consider; and 28 potential sources of public and private financial support. Diminishing private financial support, along with increasing costs, make it imperative priorities be reset.
Among the questions the town wants the consultant's help in answering:
The most important task will be finding ways for local arts groups to collaborate, share resources and get more efficient. Some egos will be bruised in this process; some people might lose their jobs.
But the status quo is not working, and the arts center is Exhibit A for that.