Hello bloggers! I’ve missed you. I have a story to share with you about the time that’s passed since I last posted here.
It’s a story about love and loss. Or…perhaps it’s a story about finding the silver lining. Maybe it’s a story of the lack of support for the arts, or a story of bad business practices, or an adventure story that never quite reached it’s climax. I’ll let you decide.
After leaving my public school teaching job in the hopes of finding a job in Dance and the arts, I stumbled across the
Infinity Arts Center, located in Sterling, Virginia. After being hired there as the Director of the Dance department, I soon found that my job title was actually code for “Director”… of everything. Ownership was out of the country for months at a time, a student base had not been established, and other directors and teachers needed to be hired.
Starting out, I had no idea what needed to be done in order to make an arts center run properly. I had received my BFA in Interdisciplinary Arts, as well as my Masters in Teaching, and although I had take a course in arts management I was by no means prepared to manage an entire arts center with no support. Regardless of how prepared I was, when opportunity comes knocking in the arts, you take it! And once I began hiring directors to create departments of theater, dance, and music, I was able to establish a team that could make Infinity Arts Center a reality.
The concept, I thought, was perfect. An interdisciplinary arts center functioning around the idea that the arts are Infinite and intertwined. A true INTERDISCIPLINARY arts center. I determined that we would have classes in theater, dance, music, visual art, and writing, with the eventual goal of establishing a dedicated student base whom would work on interdisciplinary seasonal concerts, blending their art forms in creative original pieces: skits of their own writing, choreographic and compositional collaboration between dance and music classes, visual arts contributing to performances through props and costumes. We would NOT necessarily go after the students who had already nurtured the most talent and skill in the arts, but rather we would direct our effort towards students relatively new to the arts whose passions and creativity we would nurture. And we did draw in students with exceptional potential in the arts!
Classes in modern dance, creative dance, ballet, theater, musical theater, piano, and mixed visual arts garnered small groups of passionate students that we grew to love.
Then, In January of 2020, our funding stopped without warning, and Infinity Arts ownership ceased to communicate with us.
At this point we were a well-equipped center with a small but steadily growing student base. Ownership was responsible for paying space rental and electricity so that we could focus on using the income from classes for building the programs, advertising classes, and the small hourly wages of our staff of 3 or 4 manager/teachers, and 1 or 2 additional teachers.
Without the financial support of the owners, we fumbled to find a way of paying the 5,000/month rent on our own as a management team, or with some support of a few of the more farther removed partners of the original ownership. We wanted so desperately to keep going with this dream of a space in which students without background in the arts could come and nurture their creativity through multiple art forms. We were in the process of seeing that dream succeed!
In the end, we had to ask ourselves the tough question of whether or not we could trust potential new partners in ownership. These were people who were involved in the forming of Infinity Arts Center before I arrived, these were people with deep pockets. But they would not take responsibility for Infinity Arts Center after the primary owner disappeared, and they maintained the claim that the phenomenon of the owner’s disappearance was just as much a mystery to them as it was to us. As a solution, they wanted to dissolve Infinity Arts Center behind the scenes, and have our management team legally reopen the center under our own names.
This was a center we had all been hired by – as it’s employees, and suddenly we were being asked to take over it’s ownership. Realistically this would mean we would pay monthly rent to keep our center alive, we would work for no pay, and we would need to increase our work hours to accommodate new responsibilities. Yet still, we seriously considered all possible ways we could make this work.
Looking back now, It feels as though we were having our beloved students and the attachment we felt for what we’d built leveraged against us, in order to trap us in a completely preposterous business deal. I do not know if that is the truth, and I likely never will know what the true motives behind those meetings were.
After consideration, we decided that making a deal we couldn’t uphold for the sake of the families in our classes was in no ones interest. We didn’t want to end up in a position of having to leave mid-season. Instead, we asked the partners of the original ownership if we could keep teaching the classes for no pay until the season’s end. They agreed, and just like that we were no longer managers or directors, teaching classes for our growing center, but volunteer teachers who could no longer be proud to call ourselves part of the Infinity Arts Center.
Then, COVID 19 struck, and the world went into lockdown. With classes cancelled I reached out to the partners of IAC ownership again, and asked that they refund parents for the classes they would not be able to take. IAC agreed, and asked me to turn in my key. I recently learned that their promise to refund parents was not carried out.
From Infinity Arts Center, I gained a vision and a dream. I live with the dream of what Infinity Arts Center would have become. If only the owners of IAC had attached the same responsibility to their roles in giving children a space to discover the arts as we, the management team hired by them, attached to our roles of bringing meaning to that space. I am grateful for the moments I had with my students: some of the most special moments a person can experience -sharing genuine expressive art with a few trusted others. I am grateful for the parents whose goodbyes I will never forget, because those goodbyes made me understand how much they truly appreciated what their children were able to experience with us at Infinity.
I still believe Infinity Arts Center was somehow destined for me. I believe in the “Infinity” in the arts. I believe that in the short time we were there, we made an impact on children’s lives. Once you are touched by true, expressive, creative art you carry it with you. It doesn’t go away.