This story was corrected at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 10. An explanation for the correction is at the bottom of the story.
The Frederick Arts Council soon will be moving to a new home, but group officials say not much will be changing.
“It’s just that it’s underutilized space,” said Susie Miller, acting executive director of the council.
“... There’s always the naysayers. It’s not like the arts council’s turning its back on anybody. It’s wanting to focus on anyone we’re supposed to focus on and not whether the toilet’s leaking or the water fountain’s not working,” Miller said.
The group has been discussing selling the historic building at 15 W. Patrick St. for years, she said.
As part of the current Frederick County Board of Commissioners’ plan to eliminate spending on charitable groups, the council’s funding was phased out last year, which cost them about $44,000 in revenue, Miller said.
“It’s been an ongoing discussion for a very long time,” Miller said. “...That really took a chunk out of what we were able to use for operating the building because we’ve been underwriting the cost of the building.”
In 2010, the most recent year for which data was available, the council took in $336,000 in revenue and spent about $322,000.
The building houses office space, a small theater and an event hall. The council, which serves as an umbrella group for multiple arts organizations, receives funding from the city and the state, as well as donations from local businesses and arts groups.
“We just can’t go on — the repairs on the building that need to be done,” Miller said. “The bottom line is we were underusing the building.”
Miller said the group will find another building downtown, but the focus should be on the arts and art-related projects, especially those coming from the state, and not on maintaining their space.
“We don’t want to take arts money donated for arts organizations and use it to pay for a building,” she said. “We’d like to go back to refocusing on the arts themselves; and one of the things we’d really like to do — it sounds as corny as anything — is to be the hands and feet of the state arts council in this county.”
The council purchased the building from the Evangelical Reformed Church in 1998 for $250,000, according to the Maryland Real Property Database website. It is currently valued at $804,500, the website said. The church retains a small piece of the property, which is leased.
The original building, which was built in 1926 and has 7,808 square feet of indoor space, is located within the Frederick Historic District, which is part of the National Register of Historic Places.
John Bellomo, the artistic director of the Maryland Shakespeare Festival, which rents office space in the building, said the arts council had told him of its plans to sell the building. He said he hoped a future landlord might be able to continue to rent office space to his organization. Miller said the council currently rents office space to four organizations, as well as their own, and that all the space is occupied.
“I’m not really quite sure what’s going to happen,” Bellomo said. “Depending on who buys the building, we’re hoping it’s going to be somebody that holds the arts in high regard and keeps this as a hub downtown.”
Bellomo said the two organizations didn’t have a lot of business together, apart from occasionally receiving grant funding or renting the theater, but that the two groups often shared information.
“There’s an exchange of ideas that happen a lot,” he said. “We walk by each other’s offices all the time — the way the building set up, there’s not a lot of privacy. We hear each other’s conversations. There’s a lot of exchange as far as ideas go. That will be missed.”
The original article gave incorrect information about the ownership of Frederick Arts Council building on West Patrick Street. The Evangelical Reformed Church still owns a small piece of the property, where the theater is located. The building was built in 1926. The name of the church was also incorrect.