By Blair Jackson
Less than a month after launching the Save the Fayetteville Underground campaign, the board of directors has decided to dissolve the nonprofit organization. The Fayetteville Underground will participate in two more First Thursday events, but will vacate from their current location by the first of the year.
Cathy Bass, board president, says the organization was unable to find an appropriate venue to relocate, and with nowhere to go, the board made the decision to immediately scrap the fundraising campaign and officially disband on Dec. 31. She explained that losing Ted and Leslie Belden as benefactors presented the organization with an overwhelming financial challenge. “An organization like ours depends on a benefactor. Without a benefactor of that magnitude, we just can’t make the finances work.”
All of the money donated to the Save the Fayetteville Underground Campaign will be refunded to the benefactors. The AP grant, submitted by the board, has already been withdrawn. About the dissolution, Bass said, “Everyone is disappointed.”
I asked Bass what the next step would and should be for the artists, assuming they would like to continue on their own. “I can only speak for the board,” she replied. “I can’t speak for the artists.”
I reached out to an artist from the Fayetteville Underground (who wished to remain anonymous since the affiliation has not yet been severed), to find out how the artists were affected by the news.
“We were shocked. This was not the route we were foreseeing,” said the artist, referring to the meeting when the board revealed its decision. During the meeting, artists asked to keep the Fayetteville Underground intact, proposing the current board members step aside, allowing the artists to vote on new members or to rewrite the bylaws. “They were not interested in that,” the artist said of the board members. Without the Fayetteville Underground name, the artists will have to withdraw their application for the Andy Warhol grant they were hoping to receive in January. “Essentially, they shut us down,” said the artist.
Amidst the shock, the artists have begun discussing the development of a new nonprofit organization, one that will rely on the community as its benefactor. “We’ve worked too hard, and the community has been too supportive to let this fade away,” said the artist, who is optimistic about the emergence of a new coalition of artists and community members.
“… Part of reforming is really exciting. The community will have a bigger personal experience with whatever our new incarnation is.” The artists plan on reaching out to the community for more than financial donations. They hope to involve the community in the entire development process — from creating a name, to helping find the right venue, to volunteering.
In addition to building a nonprofit from scratch, the artists still have the challenge inherited from the current organization. “We have to have a space, first and foremost.” The artist says that, realistically, the new organization may have to relocated out of the downtown area, but with the possibility of nonexistence on the horizon, location is something they are willing to compromise.