The Beachcomber’s coverage of Vashon Center for the Arts has revealed the financial and management challenges that our arts center faces, and more importantly how the VCA board and executive’s decisions have created the current, and ongoing, fiscal and operational instability.
Like our schools, art organizations are at the heart of our community and therefore the stability and management of VCA is of concern to many. Although VCA received millions in public tax dollars to construct the new facility, unlike our schools VCA is not a public agency and therefore not subject to public accountability of any kind. Therefore, budget decisions, construction choices, and decisions to expend financial reserves can be made behind closed doors, out of the public eye and, sadly in this case, with the only transparency provided by the investigative reporting of the Beachcomber. Contrast this to other non-public organizations such as Vashon Community Care and Vashon Youth and Family Services who currently do operate and communicate as if they are accountable to the public.
The most recently departing executive director stated that VCA is now dependent upon more than $1 million annually in donations — primarily from private donors — in order to meet annual operating expenses, and even with that VCA faces a $221,000 budget deficit for this fiscal year.
That’s a big ask from our community considering utilization of these donations comes with so little transparency and accountability. Certainly this should also cause current members and donors pause.
VCA has benefited from huge contributions of public tax dollars and from large donors such as Kay White, so perhaps a strategy of seeking the next legacy donor will continue to be viable to support current operating practices. However, if VCA wishes to truly be a community arts organization with a broad range of supporters and donors, much greater accountability, transparency, and respect will need to be shown. Until then we can be grateful for the Beachcomber.
— Michael Soltman