After a Decade of Negative Income, Fairfield Art Center Announces Closure

From the Executive Director

Dear Friends of the Fairfield,
Paul Light, a professor at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service, commented in a recent Wall Street Journal article that “a drop in charitable contributions could shutter as many as 100,000 nonprofits over the next year.” It is with regret that I must inform you that the Fairfield Art Center has become one of those casualties.

Due primarily to the failing economy, the Fairfield ended 2008 with a significant deficit. It is the art center’s 10th year with negative cash flow, which has left our financial reserves nearly exhausted. In addition, memberships and donations have fallen significantly. My expectation for this year is for even greater deficits, especially since I am no longer able to serve as executive director and curator pro bono.

Given these extreme circumstances, the Fairfield Foundation Board, in consultation with our Community Advisory Board, has decided not to reopen the art center after its scheduled closing in March for gallery maintenance. Thanks to much-appreciated year-end contributions from our members and donors, our current exhibitions – “The Big Read: A Tom Sawyer Experience,” “Stacia Dick-Schuster: Symbiosis” and “The Approachable Henry Moore” – will stay open through the month of February as planned; all other exhibitions for the year, however, have been canceled. The closing of the art center will not affect any of the building’s tenants or its continued successful commercial operation.

I have discussed our situation with David Gordon, the former director and CEO of the Milwaukee Art Museum, and he agreed with my assessment – and with the recommendation to close the art center at the end of February. It is founder Irene Newkirk’s wish that if the Fairfield must close, then its permanent collection should be given to another public museum in Wisconsin where it will be preserved and exhibited in Bill Fairfield’s name.

Since I took on the directorship two years ago, and with the help of so many dedicated people, we have done everything possible to turn around the fortunes of the Fairfield. Together, we hoped to do so many great things here. In the face of this recession, however, there is simply nothing more we can do with the dwindling resources we have available.

I can’t tell you how much it has meant to me to have your support during my brief tenure, and I believe that everyone who has been a part of the Fairfield – staff, volunteers, donors, members, friends and exhibiting artists alike – should feel very proud of what we have achieved since the art center opened its doors on November 27, 1998. Our efforts were not in vain.

It was a good 10-year run, and we gave much to the community. Thanks to massive renovations undertaken by the Fairfield Foundation in the late 1990s, the century-old Fairfield Building itself will remain a Sturgeon Bay landmark and a vibrant commercial business space for years to come. And every moment that we shared our love of modern and contemporary art was well worth our time and our treasure.


Walt Freckmann
Executive Director & Curator

Related Posts

About The Author