After long and thoughtful consideration, The Board and the Executive Team of The Gathering Place have concluded that it is time to discontinue our social enterprise, Art Restart, and The Card Project.
Art Restart began in 2014 as a social enterprise, building on the foundation of The Card Project, as a way to generate additional income to support TGP’s programs and services, while also creating an additional way for artists to earn some income from their artwork. While Art Restart provided some good publicity for TGP and had some initially promising results, it was never able to become self-sustaining, let alone generate net revenue to support other programs and services at TGP. Because of this, it no longer made sense to continue investing resources into Art Restart.
The decision to end The Card Project was much more difficult, and I know many of our long-time supporters will mourn the end of this program. The Card Project was one of TGP’s first programs. While it was never the most heavily accessed program or service at TGP, it had significant longevity among its participants, with some Card Project artists having participated in the program for a decade or longer. Although we don’t have data going back to the beginning of Card Project, we do know that from October 2006 through the present, over 900 artists participated in the Card Project, and over $500,000 of cards were sold, generating almost $350,000 in income to participating artists. The Card Project reached the height of its success in the period from 2011 to 2013. In 2011, an all-time high of over 200 artists participated in The Card Project. And in 2013, annual Card Project sales topped $50,000. Unfortunately, the following years brought steady declines in sales and member participation. By 2019, The Card Project had only 85 participating artists and about $20,000 in sales.
The decrease in sales and in artist participation was one of the key factors in the decision to end The Card Project. Despite the decreased sales, The Card Project required the Arts Program manager to spend a significant amount of time on selling cards and handling the administrative tasks involved with card sales. However, these sales only benefitted a very small handful of the thousands of members who come to TGP each year. We ultimately determined our members would be better served by putting those staff resources into programming that benefits more members. We hope that by shifting the focus away from selling cards and toward wellness, we can create a space that is accessible for more members to engage in art-based activities that promote community and a sense of purpose and self-worth.
We plan to continue offering arts programming in the future, but this arts programming will focus on supporting wellness rather than on generating income for our members or for The Gathering Place. As such, we would like to let you know that your support of The Gathering Place and the people we serve is still necessary and important. Our members are among the hardest hit by the pandemic. We have had to adapt, change, and pivot to best respond to their needs, and this constant change requires investment. We encourage you to become a monthly donor. Monthly donations provide a predictable income stream that allows us to better expand our programming. Or, make a one-time gift. Every gift of every size is valuable and appreciated. If you are seeking other ways to support our work, contact our Resource Development team at email@example.com.