Glen Echo Park trying to make up for federal shutdown losses -- Gazette.Net


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The potter’s wheel stopped spinning, the dancers marked time and the carousel stood still.

But the 16-day government shutdown had more than just a temporary effect on Glen Echo Park, which hosts dozens of class workshops and performances each week. It cost the Partnership for Arts and Culture, the nonprofit that runs the park, about $200,000, said Katey Boerner, its executive director.

The partnership is trying to make up for some of that lost revenue with its Shutdown Drive. So far they have raised about $17,000 — a good start but not nearly enough to compensate, Boerner said. People can donate online at https://glenechoadmin.securesites.com/donate-now

A lot of people do not realize that the federal government owns Glen Echo Park, Boerner said, and are unaware of how much the park suffered under the government shutdown.

“I think that this shutdown was really unprecedented. It is very hard to recover from,” said Boerner, adding she has been there 12 years through Snowmageddon, tropical storms and many power outages. “This was like one of those incidents amplified 10 times. It’s the equivalent of a really long Snowmageddon.”

Glen Echo Park is an unusual national park. While the land is owned by the U.S. National Park Service, the park itself is managed by the Partnership for Arts and Culture, which was established by Montgomery County in 2002. The partnership is responsible for maintenance of all the historic buildings and the carousel.

The partnership had about $1.74 million in expenses last year and brought in about $1.8 million through fees, special event income and rentals, according to its 2012 annual report.

More than 450,000 visitors came to the park last year — 150,000 of them to attend children’s theater performances such as “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” which is now showing at the Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo Park.

The park hosts 14 resident artists and arts organizations, a social dance program, an environmental education program for children, numerous art studios and galleries, and hundreds of classes in visual and performing arts — including ceramics, painting, photography, glass, music and dance.

During the shutdown, many of these classes could be held at other locations, said Jenni Cloud, spokeswoman for the nonprofit. But while it’s easy to move an Irish tin-whistle class, she said, it’s another thing to try and move potter’s wheels and kilns.

The shutdown affected the Puppet Co. well beyond the 16 days the playhouse was closed, said Christopher Piper, the co-founder, president and artistic director of the Puppet Co. Because it coincided with when many schools plan for field trips — and teachers could not be certain as to when shows would resume — many who regularly book shows looked elsewhere. The same applied to birthday party bookings — seven parties had to be canceled during the shutdown, and many more were not booked for fear the federal shutdown would extend to their chosen date, Piper said.

“Sales for “Peter and the Wolf,” one of our most popular productions, are down 27 percent over last year, and our 25th anniversary production of “The Nutcracker,” which should have sold out by this time, is down 20 percent from 2012,” Piper said. “We estimate losses at over $36,000, a very substantial part of our annual budget.”

Over the course of the shutdown, the nonprofit communicated with the public with email blasts and updates on the website about where classes would be held, Cloud said.

Facing the reality of the financial impact the shutdown was having, the park hosted two happy hours on Oct. 15 and 16 at the Irish Inn at Glen Echo, raising several thousand dollars each time.

After the Shutdown Drive ends on Friday, people can continue to donate online. The Montgomery County Executive Ball is also selling raffle tickets for $50, half of which will go to Glen Echo Park. The winner will get a new 2013 Toyota Prius C.

For Boerner and the staff at Glen Echo, it’s tough being caught in the middle of partisan politics. They are bracing for the new year; government funding is set to expire on January 15, 2014.

“There’s a layer of worry for everybody,” Boerner said. “What’s going to happen in January?”

ablum@gazette.net