Friends of South Side(FSS) has been working with the City Attorney, Architect, Parks and Recreation Director and District Commissioner, Vice Mayor Rogers in trying to reach a mutually acceptable agreement whereby Nova would be the operator of South Side for the City. These discussions and negotiations have been ongoing since November of 2010. The initial proposal formally submitted to the City in December by Nova was not supported by FSS, as it did not adequately address and protect the investment and commitment to the community for the site. In mid January, some movement and concessions for a more acceptable operating agreement format were represented and thought to have occurred.

At operations and building redesign meetings in late January however, notwithstanding earlier admonition and discussions to the contrary, Nova’s recommendations for the agreement language and building modifications reverted to providing for a long term, autonomous unfettered operation of a facility redesigned for its single purpose of operating the Museum School for visual arts at South Side. Such a position is not tenable. The tenor in which Nova initially presented its proposal to FSS and the City, and for which it was welcomed as a viable partner, was that it could operate the Museum Studio School at the South Side Cultural Art Center; not operate South Side as the Museum Studio School. Whether unwittingly or intentionally derived, such a proposition can neither in good conscience be supported, nor withstand legal scrutiny. The operator of the facility must work in tandem with the City, which is charged with such oversight obligation or risk forfeiture of the facility.

In order to achieve those objectives and fulfill some of the promises that have been made to the community by elected officials and those associated with the preservation and renovation of this facility and site, FSS has submitted to Nova and the City for inclusion in any agreement, minimum “Performance Levels” that would assure diversity of programming and access by the public and private groups. Obviously, not all activities and art programs can be provided for in the limited space at South Side and with the limited resources that are available. Yet the spirit and intent of the project can be maintained with a mutual understanding and commitment to provide these recommended minimum levels of use and access. While the visual arts were certainly envisioned to be an important element of the programs to be made available, they were never intended to be the exclusive use when this site was preserved and renovated

In brief, the Performance Levels addressed or required:

1. That no modification of design or building alteration would be undertaken without approval by the City consistent with the historical preservation, grants and covenants imposed to date, and compatible with the design for the uses thereof. Nova’s request to eliminate the outdoor and indoor stage and some other non-visual art elements would be acceptable only if the following elements were minimally preserved:

– The historical nature and finishes for the building would be preserved and not eliminated in design or function. Any additional restoration would need to be consistent therewith. Also, in recognition of the historical nature of the building, a portion of a room (originally designated as the gallery) would be available for display of historical features, including a audio/video elements (already in the design) for public interaction and education as to the history and significance of that facility, the City and the relationship to the community’s growth and development;
– The culinary teaching kitchen with catering capabilities;
– A gallery or show spaces for artist exhibitions; and
– Rooms 208 and 209 retained as adjoining rooms capable of use as one large room, separated only by a retractable partition, with appropriate flooring, mirrors, bars sound system etc for dance previously contemplated for the building and capable of multi-purpose use to accommodate some of the “Community Meetings” and Community Programs”.

2. Consistent with the design and operation of the Museum Studio School at South Side, maximum programming for such uses would be seventy percent (70%) of the hours of operation; and the balance or thirty percent (30%) of the hours of operation shall be allocated to “Community Needs”.
The operator of the facility shall be charged with scheduling those uses on a proportionate basis for desirable time frames, with the understanding and agreement that certain meetings for Community Needs require evening access and use. Rooms or facilities shall be also designated consistent with that desired use with the understanding that depending on the size of meeting space needed. There shall be access to the gallery space, adjacent to the kitchen and rooms 208 and 209. However, to maximize the efficient use and coordination, the operator may adjust these as may be reasonably needed.

3. Community Needs shall consist of Community Meetings, Community Programming and Special Events. Opportunity for use would need to be reserved for such groups as City advisory boards, civic associations, the Riverwalk Trust, DDA and other City departmental meetings as may be designated and approved by the Parks and Recreation Department, and private groups, including non-profits related to and for the promotion of the Cultural Arts and the purpose and function of the Project.
This would include Special Events and courses operated by the Parks
and Recreation Department of the City in conjunction with programs operated on the adjoining park land; or Special Events that may be run by the operator in concert with Museum School programming as they may mutually agree.
This would also include Special Events, displays and exhibitions consistent with the purpose and function of the Project and courses operated by Community Groups or Private Groups for music, verbal arts, dance, culinary, and other programs not otherwise provided by the operator.
The reasonable cost associated with janitorial services required, materials used or facility usage fee consistent with City policies would be reimbursed or paid to the operator.

The City will again address this issue at the February 15, 2011 Conference Meeting. Please let your City officials know your concerns about the use and accessibility of this multimillion dollar acquisition and restoration project that your tax dollars have already funded. If you have questions or recommendations about the project or the position that FSS has been championing with regard thereto, please feel free to contact us at info@southsidearts.org, or on our facebook pages:
South Side Cultural Arts Center
Friends of South Side

Respectfully Submitted
John P Wilkes, Chairman

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