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Rehoboth Art League closes Route 9 gallery

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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Officials: Satellite center revenue streams failed to materialize

The Rehoboth Art League has closed its gallery and studio on Route 9 less than two years after it opened. Art league President John Schroeder said the art league board decided to close the facility when it was not bringing in the expected revenue.

"The cost to stay there is unsustainable from a cash flow perspective," Schroeder said. "The expectations of the revenue streams we thought we could generate there have not occurred and do not appear to be happening any time soon."

He said the art league remains financially sound — there is no debt on the league's main Henlopen Acres campus — but the Route 9 gallery is not feasible.

"We made a business decision, like every other business does," Schroeder said. "The Rehoboth Art League is strong."

All of the league's 2016 programs will take place as scheduled at the Henlopen Acres campus, he said.

The gallery and studio at The Vineyards on Route 9 opened to great fanfare in late 2014. The league had signed a five-year lease for the 6,500-square-foot studio. It was envisioned as a place to host exhibitions and lease studio space to artists, which would provide revenue to keep the facility running.

"The idea here was to give ourselves some degree of permanency outside our main campus," Schroeder said. He said the expectation was that the gallery would be financially sustainable, but that did not occur.

"We don't believe in 2016 it was going to come close to making the cash flow for that site a smart business decision," Schroeder said. "It's real tough, because we've had some nice exhibition openings there. Real well-attended. But the bottom line is you need income to pay for everything."

Schroeder declined to discuss the costs of renting and running the building. He said at this point there are no plans to look for another satellite campus.

"We're going to take a step back and just make certain we are operating the way the art league has operated for 77 years," Schroeder said.

As for the league's reaction to the closing, he said, "Very disappointed. Making this kind of decision isn't easy. We've had a lot of internal discussion on how to make it work. But the bottom line is it's a business.

"Even though we're a nonprofit, we have to approach things from a business perspective. The business model we were working from, it's not panning out the way the expectations were. And it's frustrating." Meanwhile, Schroeder said the league is planning to stay with a two-headed director system to replace departed Executive Director Sheila Bravo, with Exhibitions Director Jay Pastore and Development Director Sara Ganter running the day-to-day operations.

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Original Publication Date: March 4, 2016

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