another quandary PRIVATE!
Finally took the decision this week to incorporate art.earth as a CIC. I’ve been toying with this decision for months, at first wanting to resist any such (potential) strictures entirely, in line with wanting to create an organisation that was in itself ecological both in intent and in form. But increasing uncertainty about the relationship with Schumacher College and the extent to which it can support us (not financially), and an equally sharp realisation that producing events under the name of art.earth without any form of protection or liability is potentially putting everything at risk, finally pushed me into the decision.
It was helped by encouraging CCANW to move from itself being a CIC to becoming a CIO. Because there is no way to convert from one to the other (currently at any rate) this has meant winding up the CIC and creating a brand new company. We began this discussion probably getting on for two years ago, when I had only just been invited to become involved in CCANW and now the new company exists, the CIC has stopped trading and is in a winding-up phase. CCANW has let itself get into debt – debt that runs into several thousand pounds and will be hard to pay off. Somehow that will have to happen before the CIC is wound up – no one wants to end up with administrators even when there are effectively no assets to administer.
But yet it feels like a fresh beginning, a chance to set aside the financial difficulties caused by a significant chunk of funding for the SoilCulture project failing to materialise. At the time I believe CA saw this project as his swan-song, and was therefore utterly determined to finish it, despite (in his own words) ‘destroying CCANW’. New blood and new ideas and new possibilities however have turned things around, with CA vowing to work for another ten years, and a slew of projects in the offing.
In creating art.earth CIC I deliberately chose a structure that says from the outset that the company / organisation will not be reliant on subsidy in order to survive. The possibility – out of the blue – of taking over High Cross House on the Dartington estate suddenly opened up all kinds of possibilities. I had been afraid (simply) of bricks and mortar, although I’m not sure why. Neither AHA nor half/angel came to an end because of bricks and mortar – they came to an end through a loss of promised funding, or simply by wearing themselves out – respectively. CA has mentioned High Cross House (HXH) on a number of occasions, knowing it was empty. This I was definitely scared of, certain that the Trust would be asking vast sums to lease it, and knowing that it is an expensive building to occupy. Expensive, and rather large.
Nevertheless, spurred on by an open call for proposals for occupancy of the building, we have come up with a plan that seems, on the face of it, to be workable and financially sustainable. A mix of selling gallery, paid artist residencies, short courses and the MA look as though they could provide the income necessary to run the building. And we (art.earth, CCANW, RANE) would have a home. A rather beautiful and iconic one at that. So we have put in a formal proposal in outline form, and in a couple of weeks will be asking to occupy the house in a ‘meanwhile’ use while final decisions are made and necessary renovations undertaken after a vigorous fundraising campaign. The building, it is said, requires a capital input of £250,000 to restore it fully. We don’t at this point know what that is based on.
The MA meanwhile – which started all this – flounders. Or rather, Schumacher College flounders and is therefore unwilling to launch a new programme. Apparently despite a record number of applications and a record number of offers, all but one of Schumacher’s postgraduate courses are on the verge of having insufficient numbers to run – whatever happens they will come in significantly under target and will therefore unbalance the books and lose money. The Trust’s rather hidebound finance department is not willing to let the College take on any additional risk while the current level of risk looks unacceptable. Worse, however, there seems to be a cultural resistance to postgraduate education within the Trust at the moment, since Rhodri has arrived. There is no support from the top that might otherwise allow additional risk to be added to the College’s troubled portfolio.
So now we are faced with the possibility of the MA not happening at all, or happening in an entirely different way. This may include having to completely revalidate the course; it may even mean withdrawing it from Dartington/Schumacher altogether and trying to go it alone. That option, I think, is not entirely viable, but it may yet come to it.
However this is beginning to feel less important. The other strands of income-generating activity feel very sound, of international significance, and able to sustain at least a part-time staff as well as providing me with a part-time income. The MA then becomes an ‘optional add-on’ rather than the fundamental building block it always seemed like.
It’s something I really don’t feel half as bad about as I might have expected to feel.