Continuing low enrollment doomed Hinsdale Center for the Arts
The Hinsdale Center for the Arts in the Katherine Legge Memorial Park ceased operations as of July 20, a decision which surprised many people, but which its board of trustees said was necessary.
Updated: October 8, 2012 1:54AM
HINSDALE — To pay off its debts, the Hinsdale Center for the Arts will be liquidating its assets, which means pianos will be selling at a discount.
“We spent last week doing an inventory of all the assets,” Bruce George, president of the center’s board of trustees, said Tuesday. “The most difficult thing for us is trying to get the most value we can to pay our outstanding debts. We want to be able to pay off as many people as we can.”
The center’s board voted to cease operations July 18 and the next day began notifying those involved that the arts organization, which had operated in a renovated dormitory in Katherine Legge Memorial Park for 27 years, was closing. The not-for-profit organization was in dire financial straits and did not expect to emerge.
The center owes wages to some instructors and presumably partial refunds to participants in summer classes that ended prematurely.
“They’ll have to wait a little bit,” George said. “We will be making payouts, but the biggest problem is we’ve got no staff.”
Once the trustees made the decision to close, they immediately let the employees go. So now it’s up to the seven board members to handle the closing down process.
“We are talking to liquidators,” George said.
The center has three upright pianos, a baby grand and an electric piano, George said.
He is open to selling the pianos directly to a buyer.
“Anything would be better than liquidation, because the liquidator takes a percent of the sales,” George said.
The center also has computer equipment, copiers, easels and some artwork to sell.
Once money becomes available, determining who gets paid first will be left to the center’s attorneys to decide, George said.
The center’s abrupt closing made some question the oversight of the organization’s finances. But George said there were annual audits with the last being done about six months ago.
“There was no malfeasance,” George said.
The board knew the center was in financial difficulty for years.
Over the past two years, the trustees spent countless hours trying to figure out a way to increase participation in programs and raise revenue.
One year ago, the board met for the same reason it did on July 18. The center undertook a concerted effort to get donations from former trustees and corporate supporters, and was successful.
“This time, the numbers were more insurmountable and the outlook was grim due to low enrollment,” George said.
Fifty percent fewer people registered for summer courses than last year, and last year’s enrollment already was down 25 percent from the previous year.
“That was the most dumbfounding thing to us,” George said.
He attributes the low enrollment to competition from private music schools, such as the School of Rock, and other non-profits, such as the Community House, which offer similar programs.
“The economy had a lot to do with it, too,” George said. “Parents aren’t signing their kids up for things as easily as they used to.”
The board considered publicizing the financial shortfall the center faced, hoping for a show of support, but, “some professionals consultants we had highly recommended against going public.”