Craft Center to Close for Academic Year

University Centers announced on Wednesday, Sept. 26, that the Craft Center will close during the 2012-13 academic year due to budget cuts. The center has been open for 40 years. Administration does not know whether the center will reopen in the near future.

The Craft Center staff were unaware that the center was closing until they were notified on Sept. 26. The announcement was unexpected; the fall brochure had already gone out and they were already taking class registration.

The staff members were also in the process of planning their holiday sale, their annual faculty art show and a special fundraiser.

“People are devastated and heartbroken and there’s anger about it,” Craft Center Interim Director Joyce Rooks said. “I think we’re just going through the grieving process.”

Staff members will have until Nov. 11 to clean out the building, return artists’ work and allow artists to complete their works-in-progress. Many artists rely on the Craft Center for their income. Some of these artists are teachers there as well.

“The Craft Center has always been under threat, partly because of the condition of the facility — and it’s the arts, and the arts are usually threatened in some kind of way,” Rooks said.

Rooks said that she expected the Craft Center to reopen next year, based on what the administration had told her.

University Centers provides funding for the Craft Center. University Centers Interim Director Sharon Van Bruggen said the Craft Center’s primary income comes from its classes and activities, but that this income is not enough to cover all of its expenses, even with the funding from University Centers. It costs about $594,000 a year to operate the Craft Center. The two-year average income is about $377,000, based on the last two fiscal years.

The president of the University Centers Advisory Board (UCAB), Albert Trujillo, met with Van Bruggen over the summer to balance the University Centers’ budget. Assistant Vice Chancellor Gary Ratcliff, A.S. executives and Graduate Student Association executives joined them to discuss the budget situation.

University Centers had the Craft Center’s facility conditions assessed by the ISES Corporation in April 2012. The ISES assessment found that the Craft Center needs at least $1.5 million in repairs, $1.27 million of which would need to be spent in the next year. The assessment does not include issues with the building foundation and construction. ISES also assessed Price Center, Student Center and Che Cafe, and concluded that, coupled with the Craft Center, renovations would cost $10.5 million over the next eight to 10 years. The number increased to $14 million when a third party did not review the projects.

Trujillo said that University Centers was not capable of paying for the $1.27 million for the Craft Center within the next year.

The decision to shut down the Craft Center was based on facility needs, student usage and student priorities.

“Student usage is pretty low despite efforts to increase advertisements and get more of an appeal to the Craft Center,” Trujillo said.

In 2011-12, a of 1,928 people used the Craft Center, 524 of them students. That was 14 fewer students than in 2010-11, 36 fewer students than in 2009-2010 and 79 fewer students than 2004-05.

Van Bruggen wrote in an email to the Guardian that the staff had tried to increase prices, charge materials fees and increase income from special sales to help the Craft Center. But the course fees would need to be quadrupled for the Craft Center to become a self-supporting operation.

“Unfortunately, while these efforts start to address the budget need, they do not address the looming facility costs,” Van Bruggen wrote. “The one-year closure provides the opportunity to explore the feasibility of other ideas.”

Trujillo said efforts to save the Craft Center will continue. UCAB is discussing a student referendum with the A.S. Council and the GSA.

“It’s something that we definitely value and appreciate and it’s something that I’m really sad to see go,” Trujillo said. “I personally really encourage the arts.”

University Centers has cut other services as well. Price Center hours have been reduced on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. University Centers programs, including concerts and events at PC Ballrooms, Pub Stage Room, The Loft and PC Theater also lost funding. The Commuter Student Services office will be closed, vacant staff positions will remain vacant and facility maintenance and repairs have been postponed unless they are linked to safety, revenue generation or accessibility. Off-campus users have to pay higher reservation fees.    “I have a great love for the Craft Center, as does everybody who has taken classes here and people that teach here and great love for art,” Rooks said. “I feel like the university is shooting itself in the foot and I think that we are just as important as the research and science that goes on here.