October 24, 2019; Plain Dealer
The 12-year-old Gordon Square Arts District in Cleveland has managed to accomplish what many nonprofit leaders try to do but few accomplish—that is, working themselves out of a job.
The organization’s board has decided that it will close this year after it succeeded in raising $30 million to help transform a struggling neighborhood into a vibrant arts district. Now, it hopes to pass on any of its remaining services that remain relevant to other organizations, closing up shop. It will retain a shell of the organization, however, in case it may be needed in the future.
“The Gordon Square Arts District isn’t closing,” said Raymond Bobgan, executive artistic director of Cleveland Public Theatre. He said that Gordon Square as a nonprofit service organization “is pressing pause and stopping operations because it’s not really needed. Its current model is not the best way to serve the district.”
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The organization was founded in 2007 by a number of arts nonprofits, including the Cleveland Public Theatre, Near West Theater, and the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, which owns the Capitol Theatre. It was meant to raise money for all of the arts anchors in the neighborhood, keeping competition at bay.
Its latest director, who came on in 2016, started to take on arts programming, but when she left this year, the organization called the question, finally determining that it had evolved to an entity that was not only taking on some of the role of other groups but was competing with them for funding.
All we can say is, “Good on them.” Many organizations would have allowed the institutional will to survive to overwhelm the original mission intention. Shutting down sounds like it was the right choice in this case, where a collaboration meant to unite linked interests under one banner did exactly what it was meant to do.—Ruth McCambridge