On July 14, the Fayetteville Underground announced that it was moving to a new location. The exact location was undetermined, but rumored to be a location on the square. After three months, the board of directors finally launched its official campaign to save the local gallery.
The campaign has, thus far, consisted only of a press release, posters, fliers and an addition to their website that allows the community to make donations to the nonprofit organization.
My first week as editor of The Free Weekly sent me to the First Thursday gathering on the downtown square. When I wandered into the Fayetteville Underground for the first time, I was engaged and enthralled with the gallery. Unlike other galleries and museums I’d been to — the Louvre, the Uffizi, the Met — the Fayetteville Underground featured artists who mingled with spectators, who worked down the road from me, who were available and willing to discuss their projects, passions and processes.
I met a few of them — painters, photographers, textile artists — and the energy of their workspace and community made the experience intimate and invigorating. I saw the art on the wall as an extension of a creative, expressive community.
In light of the Save the Underground Campaign, I attempted to investigate the details behind the move. Why were they moving? Where were they moving? Why the $50,000 limit? I have attempted to contact four members of the board, and was deferred from one contact to another and was left wondering — Why does no one want to talk about this?
I went to the Underground, searching for answers. The artists were unable to share any information with me, simply saying they had been told to defer any inquiries to the board of directors. I asked if there was an artist who represented them on the board of directors. “No,” is the answer I received.
As a journalist, it is especially frustrating to encounter a block in information, especially in a situation as sensitive as this, where people’s livelihoods hang in the balance.
There is a very real possibility that the Fayetteville Underground will dissolve on Dec. 15 — the deadline for the $50,000.
I spoke to Greg Mack, who is the treasurer for the Underground who informed me that the $50,000 is the necessary amount of funding needed for the rent and renovations of the desired space. If that goal is not met by the deadline, all of the money will be returned to the donators. He said fundraisers were in the works, and that a grant had been submitted to the city’s advertising and promotion commission.
There are still many questions left unanswered.
Perhaps the board of directors is confident that the community will fund the Underground, but with less than two months left, less than $10,000 has been raised in donations. Crystal Bridges is opening in less than a month, and Fayetteville is already sizing up Bentonville as serious cultural competition. Losing the Underground would be a heavy hit to local artists, the First Thursday event and the cultural appeal of our city.
I encourage everyone who cares about this situation to not only donate but to reach out to the directors of the board as well as the artists — to offer ideas and support to truly work together to save the Fayetteville Underground. Visit fayettevilleunderground.com for more information.