Unlike its neighbors, HD South receives little support from the city | News

A 109-year-old downtown building that once housed Gilbert Elementary School now features city history, exhibits and community programs.

“We are Gilbert’s only museum, the oldest building standing in Gilbert and listed on the National Register of Historic Places,” said Denise Lopez, President and CEO of HD SOUTH. “We are Gilbert’s center for arts, culture and history.”

For all it does, the non-profit has received $51,050 from the City for the current fiscal year, which pales in comparison to how neighboring municipalities fund their arts and culture, according to an internal city report. The report looked at financial support for the 2020-21 financial year.

The Mesa Department of Arts and Culture had a budget of $10.8 million to operate the Mesa Arts Center, Idea Museum, and Arizona Museum of Natural History.

Chandler, of comparable size, gave its cultural development department $680,337 for the Chandler Museum and $1.95 million for its arts center. Overall, the city this fiscal year allocated $4.6 million for cultural development, according to the report.

In Tempe, the history museum and store received $325,922 in general funds. The city, the report notes, has a strong program and has spent a total of $6.4 million on arts and cultural services programming.

And, Scottsdale’s Museum of the West receives significant financial support from the city, which built the facility for $11.4 million, according to the report.

Since opening in 2015, this museum has received $400,000 annually from the Scottsdale Tourism Development Fund. In July 2021, a new five-year contract was signed which included an additional $250,000 in management fees for the Scottsdale museum.

The report also says the museum received an additional $380,628 for a new exhibit, $500,000 for educational programs, and $200,000 for marketing and media over the past seven fiscal years. And in 2020, he received an $884,663 grant from Scottsdale as part of the COVID-19 Relief Funding.

Gilbert Town spokeswoman Jennifer Harrison said the July 2021 report was given to Council to provide an overview of what was happening in the area with “no planned action or response planned”.

A second report prepared at the same time focused on the City’s financial support to HD South from 1997 to present.

HD SOUTH was originally dubbed the Gilbert Historical Museum until the name was changed in 2017 to reflect its transformation into an arts and cultural center.

The Gilbert Historical Society originally leased the former elementary school, which closed in 1977, from Gilbert Public Schools. The society opened the museum to the public in 1982 and three years later was able to purchase the building and land, thanks to a generous donation.

The City, which promotes HD SOUTH on its tourism website, began financial support in fiscal year 1996-97 with $48,000.

Over the years, funding has fluctuated from as little as $1,000 a year to $79,790 for the 2005-2006 fiscal year, according to the report.

Funding for the current year was approved by Council in March 2020, with annual allocations ending in June 2023. In the City’s contract with HD SOUTH, funding is provided to help the non-profit organization to achieve financial autonomy.

According to the minutes of that March meeting, then-Mayor Jenn Daniels and other council members extolled the importance of preserving the city’s rich history and highlighted HD SOUTH’s contributions.

In addition to money from the city, HD SOUTH generates revenue from fundraising events, membership dues, its gift shop, facility rentals, donations, grants, and some community fees. program, according to Lopez.

On March 29, the Board approved a $100,000 grant to HD SOUTH as part of a Gila River Indian Community gaming grant. Lopez did not provide the association’s current budget.

But in the 2019 tax year, HD South reported total income of $655,352 and total expenses of $272,541, according to its latest available IRS Form 990.

What is planned to help the non-profit organization towards self-sufficiency is a planned expansion and renovation project.

HD SOUTH in 2020 announced a $2 million fundraising campaign that includes the construction of a 6,000 square foot single-story multi-purpose building for programs, exhibits and rental space, remodeling of select event spaces, existing exhibit in the current museum to accommodate programs and upgrade the courtyard for outdoor entertainment, lessons and rentals.

Lopez said HD SOUTH has already raised nearly $1.5 million. Once all the money is in hand, it is expected to take six to nine months to complete the project, she said.

“With the new building, it will give us more opportunities for facility rental income and additional space,” Lopez said. possibility of organizing more exhibitions, we can organize traveling exhibitions there, something bigger.

Lopez said the new building could be rented out for events like weeklong training sessions and trade shows.

When asked why the disparity in funding for a well-regarded cultural resource compared to its neighbours, City Manager Patrick Banger said Gilbert continues to support the museum and its efforts and it’s “a ‘incredible equipment’.

But “the current funding structure was established to assist HD SOUTH as the nonprofit worked toward fiscal sustainability,” he said in an email. “In addition to supporting HD SOUTH, the city also hosts a variety of arts and cultural events and programs.”

He pointed to Gilbert Parks and Recreation, which offers more than 3,500 community programs a year, ranging from arts, culture, fitness and special interest classes for all ages.

“The city is also working with several strategic community partners to bring additional activities to the community, such as AZCEND, Maricopa County Library District and Desert Rivers Audubon,” Banger said. “In addition, Gilbert organizes more than 50 special events a year, including arts and cultural activities such as the Gilbert Global Village Festival and Gilbert Days.”

And, Banger said, the city has an arts committee task force that’s activated for special projects. Recently, he was activated to give his opinion on the design of the Ocotillo Bridge, he said.

“Other examples of city-supported art projects include the IN FLUX temporary art installations and the art benches in the Heritage District,” he said. “We continue to look for opportunities to bring art into the community. For example, we are currently exploring ways to incorporate art into future phases of Gilbert Regional Park.

Lopez, however, said she wouldn’t mind additional financial help from Gilbert.

“We would love it if we had more city-level participation,” Lopez said. “Discussions have been started with some city staff to hopefully make it a little fairer to surrounding municipalities what they give their arts and culture organizers versus what Gilbert gives us. given.”

She pointed out that HD SOUTH anchors the southern end of the heritage district and has an economic impact for the city.

Although foot traffic at HD SOUTH isn’t where it was before the pandemic when it averaged 8,000 visitors a year, “we’re back to about 3,600,” Lopez said.

“The more people move here, the more they look for artistic and cultural places and historical places,” she said. “We’re pretty much the perfect place for that. Rather than people going to Mesa or Chandler to see big exhibits or discover art galleries with vast art collections, we need to keep those people here.

About Jefferey G. Cannon

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