Cultural Center crossroads

Economic problems have led to shortfall, facility could close

Keywords: Poll question,
Shawn Collins is the director of the Cortez Cultural Center. The center is facing financial problems. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Shawn Collins is the director of the Cortez Cultural Center. The center is facing financial problems.

The Great Recession has left the Cortez Cultural Center in dire straits.

Over the past year, the center has experienced a budget shortfall of $9,539 from an operating budget of $252,375, Executive Director Shawn Collins said.

“The economy has impacted us in two ways,” she said. Over the past five years (2008-2012), the income streams from the center’s gift shop and grants have diminished.

As an example, the net profit from the gift shop was $40,000 in 2007. In 2011 it had decreased to $15,000. Through September of this year it stands at $9,000.

“We know we are not alone,” Collins said. “But before we go away, we hope the community realizes that the Cortez Cultural Center has value. We need the community to come in behind us now and realize what they might lose,” she said.

Collins, who came on board in May 2011, and the center’s 10-person board are looking for individuals, organizations and businesses to step up.

“We are part of the economic draw for the area, and we provide programs and services that contribute to the quality of life in Montezuma County,” she said.

The face of the Cortez Cultural Center is the Native American dances that take place in the summer months. The dances — which feature Ute Mountain Ute, Navajo, Lakota Sioux, Hopi and Jemez tribes — likely won’t change as the dances and related cultural offerings have a dedicated funding source through city taxes. The tax, some $26,255, is passed on to the center by the Mesa Verde Country Tourism Office, Collins said.

But myriad other programs offered at the center could go away if revenue doesn’t pick up.

Examples of such programs include classes for youth and adults, lectures and workshops.

“Our large programs include Ladies’ Night Out to benefit the Patsy Brown Art Scholarship for a local high school student, the Pueblo-to-Pueblo Run, the Ute Mountain/Mesa Verde Birding Festival, Kids Culture Camp, the Community Christmas Dinner, and monthly art exhibits. Programs that we have cut include the summer craft fairs and Music in the Park,” Collins said.

She noted that the City of Cortez is a major supporter of the Pueblo-to-Pueblo Run and the Birding Festival.

The center is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, and has not received support from Colorado University for more than 10 years.

“We’re already running a bare bones staff,” Collins said, noting there have been three part-time staff positions eliminated since 2008. These include a bookkeeper, art program coordinator and a marketing/graphic design person. In addition, the manager of the Hawkins Preserve, a 122-acre hiking and bird watching area located in southwest Cortez, was cut from 16 to 5 hours a week.

The center benefits from hundreds of volunteer hours every year, led by Patsy Brown, who has been the center’s volunteer coordinator for over 20 years. Brown and other volunteers run the gift shop and visitor services.

The center receives rental income from such groups as the Unitarian Universalists and a yoga class.

“I would like to let people and organizations know they can rent the (704-square-foot) classroom and (adjacent) kitchen,” Collins said.

In May, it looked like gift shop sales were up, but they dropped substantially in June, July, August and September. Collins speculates that vacationers changed their plans due to Colorado’s wildfires.

The 2012 budget proposed $252,375 of income and $235,009 for total expenses with a proposed net income of $1,094. This factors in $16,272 for the cost of the goods sold.

The Cortez Cultural Center’s budget reflects the following income: fundraisers, $70,824; gift shop, $46,816; grants, $46,422; programs, $23,538; donations, $13,583; memberships, $10,580; other, $2,013; and interest, $31.

Shelby Smith has served on the Cultural Center’s board for nine years. He believes the center is special. “Most towns this size haven’t (even) thought of such a thing. People will stay here because they want to see (the Indian dances) instead of going to Moab.” The Cultural Center draws thousands of visitors each year, he said. “We’re working hard to secure a future for the center.” This includes long-range planning and long-range funding.

“To properly serve our community, we need to continue our programs,” Collins said, noting a decision needs to be made sometime within the next six months.

For more information, call 565-1151 or go online at cortezculturalcenter.org.

calebs@cortezjournal.com