Getting creative to keep DotArt alive in ‘10

Artistic types from the “starving painter in the garret” to the Broadway hopeful who waits tables have traditionally learned to cope with financial problems by applying their gift of creativity.
Exemplifying this strategy locally is Leslie MacWeeney, Executive Director of Dot Art, or the Dorchester Community Center for the Visual Arts, as the non-profit is known legally. Thanks to her foresight and “extreme cautiousness,” she’s keeping the beloved Dorchester cultural resource afloat in these stormy financial seas even though revenues from class fees are down by a staggering two-thirds.
“We are not in the RED yet! And plan not to be!” she vows. But the task is increasingly difficult.
“We have been scheduling fewer classes. Enrollment in every class is down; so if we run a class, the profit margin is tiny.  Those classes most severely affected are the free ones and our Shakespeare & Picasso program.   I have been teaching (to save paying an instructor) and doing the Executive Director’s job as well, so I am crazed!”
Though Dot Art’s spring 2009 fundraiser Snazzy Jazzy Arty Party attracted  a record 99 donors and raised more money than in 2008,  grants which supported the organization in the past have  all but dried up.
“A lot of foundations have changed to a ‘by invitation only’ policy,” she observes.  “This helps them to not have to say no to so many people.”
Dot Art Board members are redoubling their efforts to secure funds from new sources, with some success. For example, they have done ceramic sales at their places of work, which bring in a small, but needed stream of cash. They’re  trying to book staffers at local homes for arts and crafts birthday parties. They’re soliciting donations to match a challenge grant of  $1,300 (set up by a private donor and former Dorchester resident), which would go directly to the Shakespeare & Picasso program.

But survival these days  often means  reverting to even more to more primitive strategies like bartering and begging. Last summer when Dot Art simply had no money to rent a space big enough for the 11th season of its signature “Portraits” program. Vince Droser, of Trinity Financial, saved the day at the last  moment by offering the sunny storefront in the Carruth Building rent-free for seven weeks.
Unable to continue paying rent at their former 1775 Dorchester Ave location, Dot Art recently relocated to the third floor of Federated Dorchester Neighborhood Houses under a barter arrangement.  
“Mark Culliton, CEO of FDNH, has kindly given space to us,” MacWeeney explains. “In return we offer slots in our classes to their staff and families. Also I will be teaching some workshops to their staff this semester on early childhood art education, which is a particular interest and strength of mine.” 

Dot Art’s Winter/Spring offerings reflect sharpened audience-targeting. A new course “Art in the Afternoon”  scheduled 3:45 - 5:45 is aimed at kids in day programs who can’t come to their morning hours “Children’s Studio.” Practical adult courses like “Functional Tableware” are booked at Dot Art’s Clay Station pottery studio. Free classes for teens that combine self-expression with life-skills learning include “Sisters for Change” and “Get Your Art On.”
For details on these and other classes and on ways you can support the effort, visit or call the office at 617-265-3503.


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