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Fund-raiser saves Merced arts center

MERCED — The Merced County Arts Council raised more than $11,000 from its recent Arts 24 fund-raiser, nearly reaching its target to raise $12,000 in 24 hours to help sustain the Merced Multicultural Arts Center.

Ironwood Court, organized by Nathan Quevedo and people who live in the Merced cul-de-sac, raised the most money, $1,433.37, with a “kegger” at the center. Other places, such as the Cinema Cafe, had a dinner Friday night. There were restaurants donating their dinner sales, an improv show at Playhouse Merced, a wine sale, midnight yoga and other activities to help raise money.

The events came in response to the council’s shift in organizing more fund-raisers that will help sustain the center for at least this year, said Staci Santa, executive director. With a $40,000 deficit, the center can’t rely on reserve funds that have been depleted by the dismal economy.

The council manages the art center on behalf of the city of Merced in exchange for using the building, Santa said. The center offers art education spaces and is home to the Arbor Gallery, programs such as ARTREE, designed to enhance the arts in school districts in Merced County, and the Enrichment Center, an adult day program for people with developmental disabilities, according to the arts council Web site.

“We wanted to basically secure funds for this place so we don’t have to close doors,” Santa said. “It really is asking the community: ‘Do you want a facility where a bunch of art activities can go on at the same time?’ ”

The Arts 24 fund-raiser’s activities were meant to jump-start more fund-raisers. “We just can’t run on the old model that we have been running on,” said Santa. “I don’t want to be in the same place next year, being the victim again. The community should expect more from a building.”

For example, there will be an arts supply sale during the Art Hop, and a Chicano literature author will speak next month. And people can expect a “Parties for the Arts” fund-raiser with dinners, tours and bicycle trips around Merced County.

The council is responsible for all of its expenses, which total about $100,000 a year, according to Santa. About $60,000 comes from renting rooms and space in the building. That leaves a $40,000 deficit, which in the past, the council has been able to generate from private donations. But with the economy the way it is, the council hasn’t been able to make up the difference the way it usually has done — from its long-term savings.

She said the group has about $60,000 left in that kitty. The arts council is a nonprofit funded through earned income, or charges from classes, programs and its Enrichment Center, and from grants, membership and private business donations.

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