Arrowmont’s director, David Willard, is quoted in a Metro Pulse article about the situation facing the school. In any sort of ongoing negotiations, someone in his position always has to be circumspect in what he says in public, but I don’t see a great deal of vision displayed in his remarks. Here are a series of quotes from the article and my thoughts on them.
Arrowmont’s lease extends through 2011, and the school has engaged legal counsel to pursue possible options. But Willard says that process is not far enough along to offer encouragement.
The facts are simple. Pi Beta Phi owns the land and is going to sell the land, while Arrowmont has a lease through 2011. Arrowmont needs to leverage that lease to get Pi Beta Phi to offer more than the $9 million on the table right now. While legal advice is useful, Arrowmont needs to rally its friends, aggressively seek a new home, and push pressure on Pi Beta Phi to share its impending windfall and pay for the move.
Both Willard and (Marcia) Goldenstein (a board member) say that while the aesthetic disparity between Arrowmont’s pastoral campus and the over-developed adjacent strip that runs through Gatlinburg has grown steadily over recent decades, there was no sense among those at the school that it would come to this.
Well, yes, this land sale was a shock. These kind of moves always are. Now shake it off and get cracking to find the next home for Arrowmont. Don’t wait to see what happens–you need to create that future yourselves.
Metro Pulse writer Chris Barrett interviewed Robin Dreyer, the spokesman for the Penland School of Crafts in Penland, North Carolina, who shared some information about school finances:
Roughly 45 percent of Penland’s budget is raised through fees and tuition. The balance comes from an endowment, individual gifts, grants, and sundry government channels, both state and federal. Dreyer says that consultants tell Penland that getting 33 percent of its budget from fees and tuition would mean a better balance between solvency and affordability. According to Arrowmont’s website, Arrowmont receives 60 percent of its annual operating funds through tuition and fees.
Penland is off by itself out in the country. That’s the ideal setting for craft instruction, but one that puts the entire financial burden on the school. That’s why I advocate Arrowmont relocating to a town that could offer support in the form of free or low-cost land, a free building and direct aid, and involvement with school districts or other entities that can provide support. Note that Penland receives “sundry government channels, both state and federal.” Arrowmont needs to tap into that money as well as local government help.
More importantly, the School needs to get more aggressive NOW with fundraising from friends and students and other supporters for this move. Donors respond to crises–Americans are the most charitable people in the world–and, properly motivated, they will rally around Arrowmont.
Right now, several Pi Beta Phi chapters give lots of money to Arrowmont. Florida Delta Chapter and Nashville, TN Alumnae Club each gave over $10,000 last year. The Arkansas Alpha Chapter and Texas Gamma Chapter gave somewhere between $7,500 and $9,999. And so on down the line. You can see other supporters here. Arrowmont needs to cement relations with these chapters in order to ask them to help pay for the move and so that they will keep giving even after Arrowmont gets the boot from Pi Beta Phi.
I was disappointed to see David Willard’s and board member Marcia Goldenstein’s advice to supporters of Arrowmont:
Both Willard and Goldenstein are grateful for the recent outpouring of public support, and say that financial support remains the best way to express a desire for Arrowmont to continue. Willard suggests enrolling in a course or responding to the Friends of Arrowmont’s current annual fundraising campaign. He also says that next spring and summer promise themed auctions of artwork.
Arrowmont is fighting for its life, and you recommend enrolling in a course and getting ready for a themed auction??? Again, Willard and Goldenstein have to be careful in their public utterances while in negotiations with Pi Beta Phi, but here’s what needs to happen:
Arrowmont needs a visible and vocal group of supporters. Various people have made some noise about Pi Phi pulling the rug out from Arrowmont, but their efforts appear splintered. That Metro Pulse article should have had a comment from an ardent supporter of Arrowmont. Who is that person? Where is that person? How can this person and that group be reached?
Someone has to own this fight. Right now there’s one Save Arrowmont blog on the Web, but the blogger remains anonymous. You can go to a Save Arrowmont website, but there’s no real call to action. There’s an Internet petition floating around out there, but those sorts of petitions mean nothing. Friends of Arrowmont need a person to lead the charge and a website that lays out the School’s situation and gives supporters a clear course and list of action items they can do to help the School.
Keep the pressure on Pi Beta Phi. Sororities, even sororities that call themselves fraternities, do not like bad publicity. Pi Phis who want to help Arrowmont need to call those chapters that support the School, tell them of the situation, and enlist their aid in getting the Pi Phi board to do the right thing. Tell every chapter about this impending deal and seek to get 100 percent of them on the record in supporting Arrowmont. Pi Phi cannot ignore its own people.
Raise hell. Television stations love demonstrations. March. Sing. Wave quilts. Keep this in the news and keep up the pressure on Pi Phi. Do a march in Nashville as well as Knoxville and Gatlinburg. Write letters to the editor and contact reporters. Keep this story alive.
Behind the scenes, the School needs to:
Start getting the numbers for what the move will cost. What can be moved from the campus and what will have to be bought? How much space does Arrowmont really need? How much space would it like to have? What is the minimum amount of space it would need to get established somewhere else with the potential to grow?
Assemble a task force of people who have the authority to negotiate for Arrowmont. Start approaching Greeneville and other towns and getting the best deal for a move. Find out what they have to offer. Play one town against the other. How would a private company seeking to relocate do this? So many times, Tennessee towns throw the moon and stars at industries offering to bring in a bunch of minimum wage jobs. See what they will do for Arrowmont, a distinguished school that would become an instant asset anywhere it goes.
Enlist the aid of Senator Lamar Alexander. Get him on board. He is an East Tennessean with more than a passing interest in the arts. His staff can investigate any Federal money that might help Arrowmont or economic development grants that East Tennessee towns could use to help the School relocate. Senator Alexander is a politician; he has pull and would love to be seen as the guy who saved Arrowmont.
Engineer a solution that will make Pi Beta Phi look good. Pi Beta Phi is not a bad organization. They do good deeds, and selling this valuable land will make it possible to do more good deeds. Ideally, Arrowmont’s board or task force will find a new home and come up with the price tag for a move. Right now, Pi Phi is offering $9 million. Perhaps the amount needed will be $12 million, or $15 million. Make a convincing case for the School’s needs, but you can’t do that until you know what they are.
Don’t sit back and wait. Metro Pulse quotes director Willard as saying “The options are yet to be determined. There are a lot of forks in the road before us. As things develop, that will enable us to make a plan. It’s not as fast as we’d like it to be. There’s not a lot to talk about yet.”
Don’t wait for things to develop. Get out there and develop them. Start investigating those forks in the road and define your own route. If you don’t, some day soon Pi Phi will hand you a check and tell you when you have to vacate the Gatlinburg property. Once that happens, you have lost the chance to negotiate with Pi Phi.
Arrowmont has a wonderful and distinguished past, but its future is in jeopardy unless some leaders come forward and fight for this School.
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