After roughly seven years of operating at a deficit, the 30-year-old Cortez Cultural Center announced last week that it would discontinue operations after September as it looks to rebuild the organization from the ground up.
In an interview with the Cortez Journal, board president Lee Bergman said the board has decided to stop programming after September and "reorganize operations" in a way that drastically reduces costs.
"We will be running things through September 7 to the end of the Indian dances. We just have to decide how to proceed from there," said Bergman.
The center's annual operating budget is about $200,000, made up largely of grants, memberships, donors, sponsors, events and programming. Competition for grants and the pool of funding have become tighter, and attendance and interest in the center's offerings have been at an all-time low.
"We're just simply caught in a set of circumstances where we cannot keep this place sustainable. We've tried increasing our ad budget... The turnout for our events has been way down," said Bergman.
Bergman said the board and the executive director considered closing the center for winter, but that still would not make the center financially healthy for the long-term.
"Unfortunately, there's not a magic bullet to fix this," he said.
According to a letter addressed to the city of Cortez and sent out to Cultural Center members, the nonprofit is seeking to sell its building and plaza at 25 N. Market St., in downtown Cortez. The gift shop and gallery will end operations in early September. Items in the museum will be returned to owners. Donated items will be returned to the museum district or sold.
Art and cooking classes, and history and archaeology programs, often held on Wednesdays discontinued.
The Cultural Center does expect to continue annual events such as the Pueblo-to-Pueblo run and Birding Festival, and to manage Hawkins Preserve. Bergman says the most promising route forward is to hold classes geared toward ecology and build on the success of Hawkins Preserve as a way to carve a niche for itself in Montezuma County's competitive cultural landscape.
"(Ecology) is a logical niche. ... It's something that has tremendous interest and very little direct competition. We can focus on Hawkins and build programs slowly and steadily," he said. "We want to start from a zero base and build up. Right now, we've got something top-heavy that we're trying to build down from and we've been unable to do so."