Mateel Moves Forward with Summer Arts Fair
At the February meeting of the Mateel Community Center, Board members showed their excitement about plans for this year’s Summer Arts and Music Festival even as they continue to cope with the fallout from the Mateel’s financial debt. And while the Board is largely reluctant to plan for returning the Mateel Meal program to the hall, it did authorize volunteers to resume the search for funding.
Office Manager Charity Green said 99% of the phone calls she receives right now are from people asking for word on the destiny of the Reggae on the River festival. However, Board member Dusty Hughston said the Mateel did not yet have an announcement about Reggae 2018.
During the finance committee report, Board President Garth Epling said the meeting with Patrick Swartz of North Point Financial Resourcing and Solutions LLC of Arcata went well. Epling said, “At our last meeting, we met with our new financial consultant….Even despite his …straight and narrow corporate world history, he seems like a good fit for communicating with our unique organization here.”
The Mateel expects a preliminary report on his analysis of its financial dilemma sometime in March. The Board continues to meet more than once a month. In other financial news, the Board expects a refund check from Sysco for about $9,000 and has raised around $10,000 with the crowdsource campaign for Garth’s debt to Sysco. The next pressing debt the Mateel is facing is for their modular office rentals during last Reggae. The debt is currently $28,000 however, if the Board can raise $15,000 “very very soon,” the company would forgive the rest of the debt.
The 2015 audit had not yet been submitted. (Though it has been by now, according to Green.) When asked, Epling began, “We are under contract with our auditor, and he just sent some reassuring email….” Epling was interrupted by Hughston who said, “We still have weeks, and [the auditor] says he’ll be done for sure, and the people he is sending it to were totally nonchalant about any sort of rush at all.”
Summer Arts and Music Festival:
In the meantime, the Board is moving forward with Summer Arts and Music Festival. The Board is enthusiastic about their plans for reorganizing the festival grounds. The pedestrian entrance at the freeway on-ramp, known as South Gate, will now open directly into the kids’ zone and the fairway. Board Member Dusty Hughston expanded on the redesign. He explained,
We are looking at an actual arched entryway, balloons, bouncy house, concessions, stage in the round so that you can walk straight across the road right into the major kids zone. Pooba wants to build the stage-in-the-round…and is teaming up with other Summer Arts volunteers on the project.
Board Members went on to explain the “Summertronica” stage will move down to the site of what has long been the Solar Stage which will now be eliminated.
According to Hughston, these changes will open up space in the middle fairway giving belly dancers and other lawn stage performers more focus and drawing more foot traffic into the back lane of vending booths.
During the Public Comment period, board members heard Babette Bach chastising them for the way they have approached their volunteers as they scale back crew sizes for Summer Arts. A letter sent to approximately 20 people who won’t be needed as coordinators this year is addressed “Dear Coordinator” and moves on to explain that reorganization means, “While we appreciate your previous years’ effort, we will not need you as a coordinator this year, Please feel free to contact Anne for volunteer opportunities…”
Babbette explained to the Board that this style of communication leaves long-term volunteers feeling unneeded at a time when the Mateel appears to need all the help it can get. Bach said,
“We are volunteers: the volunteers that are asked to go the extra mile, and do the extra jobs. We are also part of the community. The same community you are asking money from, saying ‘help us out; go fund us.’ To me it’s a really short-sighted way of treating people in the community that you want backing from.’”
Board members said, while they knew that crews and coordinators were being downsized, they had not seen this letter before it went out. Board members agreed that the communication would tend to lead people to think they were being uninvited to participate further.
Garth Epling, Board President apologized. “I’m personally sorry that it went down that way,” he said. The Board determined to direct the staff member to call those coordinators and invite their continued support.
Back in September, the Board suspended the Mateel Meal until January. The Mateel Meal has not yet resumed. Board Member Megan Gomes explained, “I believe the feeling we had was that we would be more solvent at this point and be able to bring this community service back. And we are not solvent yet.”
Hughston added, “Our fiduciary duty lies with the Mateel before it lies with its programs… .”
Newly seated Board Member Bruce Champee expressed support for the Meal and asked about its funding resources, “Is anybody looking at writing grants that would support the Mateel Meal?”
Board Member Anna Rogers acknowledged a need for the Meal, “Homelessness, houselessness, hunger is not a thing that is going away…It may be that getting these kinds of grants will only become easier.”
However, support appears mitigated. Board member Pleasure Strange said, “I think that taking the Meal off our grounds, and to not bring that element back, I think would be an important factor for the Meal.”
Nonetheless, volunteers are authorized to seek funding sources and will bring proposals back to the board.
In the Building report, the Board heard that Board Member Bruce Champee continues to work with volunteers making improvements to the hall and property. Lights are going onto the exterior stairs for safety and ambiance, the door to the patio is being repaired, the liquor closet is now more secure, and the kitchen will soon get a larger gas line to better accommodate the stove.
In program news, traditional programs at the Mateel include Missoula Children’s Theatre and the San Francisco Mime Troup. While the Mateel is struggling to find the funds for both, the Board does expect to bring them back. For the Mime Troup, longtime member Sonja Bauer pledged to pay for the difference between the ticket sales and the Troup’s $4,000 fee. Tonya Malley, the Sponsorship Coordinator, has reported she has received pledges of financial sponsorship for the Missoula Children’s Theatre.
Author’s note: For full disclosure, this reporter has coordinated the performer check-in booth for Summer Arts and Reggae since 2008, and received the letter to the coordinators.