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FY21 Update: Artisan’s Metamorphosis

DATE:  June 30, 2021     CATEGORIES:  Somerville Media Center Partnership

As we bring the 2021 fiscal year to a close, I wanted to bring you up to speed on a few matters both pressing before us, and longer range over the next six months.

1. We are closing the year with $107,000 in the bank. It is a relatively strong position coming out of/entering a very tumultuous year, but not quite strong enough. We have an additional $320,000 in pledged funds, bringing our total cash position to $427,000 as we close the year. Note that $300,000 of these are earmarked for direct build-out expense; the balance allocated between move, fitup and operating costs. Our operating budget gap – which includes arrears rent and an end of year CAM adjustment – is about $120,000

2. The Rafi team has put forward a very achievable lease extension and I’m grateful for that. We’re still going to need your support to get through it. While I can’t disclose the confidential terms of the agreement, please know that they have shown a material interest in our well being. Please plan to keep your memberships active for as much of the September through November period as you can; this will be the difference between withering and thriving for us as an organization.

3. Our membership has remained incredibly intact during a period when it would have been easy to predict disaster. Thank you for defying the narrative of self-interest and pulling through this with us on behalf of our community and organization well-being. To date we are a community of:
– 563 members; of these
– 192 are volunteer members
– 350 are paying members
– 21 are company members
– 2 are prized institutional members – SCUL and Greentown Labs

4. Looking ahead, I want to let you know that we’ll be moving off of Club Automation by September 1. There are several reasons for this, the most pressing among them being:
– We want you as members to be able to more easily self-manage your accounts, whether its securing add-ons (ie renting shelves) or managing your payment methods (ie changing credit card info).
– We want a platform that helps us build community. Right now, our tools are largely transactional. Looking ahead I’d like us to be much more relational. This includes building an opt-in member directory and fostering community-wide communication from a single portal.
– And ultimately we’d like a consolidated space for sharing community life and to put forward a welcoming public face to the organization. This includes a calendar of events, tour requests, easy to understand rates and terms, etc.

5. Antwerp and Holton occupancy is looking really strong, if reservations hold. To date we have a 71 percent studio occupancy rate across both locations, broken down as follows:
– Antwerp Street is 87 percent full, with just 5 studios remaining available
– Holton Street is 60 percent full, with 28 studios available

Its not too late to reserve your studio; just complete the survey here:https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/artisans-allston-studios

6. Looking ahead, construction is well underway at Antwerp (the location of “heavy” shops). A quick check-in today (see attached photo) shows progress in:
– A lot of concrete cutting and trench work to deliver plumbing to bathrooms as well as some shop areas.
– Board insulation is going up on (the interior of) exterior walls, ensuring that we have a buttoned up home that is comfortable year round.
– Drywall frame is going up, which means that in just a couple of weeks the basic shell of our building will be complete.

I apologize that, for the time being, tours of Antwerp have to be suspended due to safety concerns. I’ll let you know as soon as we’re clear to re-enter the building (in 2-3 weeks, at which point it will look very, very different!). 

7. The member Design Team has been making a lot of progress with studio design and customization standards. They’ll be coming out with design standards for your feedback in the coming weeks. While I don’t expect a whole lot to change, a few adaptations are:
– Most studios will have a dual box 20A electrical drop. Those along walls will have a fixed dual 20A box
– Studio design is going to be more flexible with the goal of enabling studios to be expanded or contracted easily. Same four foot height; likely thinner and more rigid wall construction.
– Studio customization guidelines will be familiar, establishing height limits and fire suppression guidelines. We hope to encourage the same sense of quasi-anarchic variation.
– Studio numbering and a “neighborhoods” scheme will be proposed, supporting much easier wayfaring for new members and guests.

I am really excited about the work of the design team and I hope that you will be as well. Look for their recommendations in the coming weeks.

8. The member futures team has been reviewing and proposing updates to our member agreements. All of these will be available online for review; the content isn’t likely to change dramatically, no sweeping reforms. Among the goals are:
– Update all address and location information including links to forms etc.
– Generate preamble that establishes a welcoming tone and broad community expectations
– Harmonize the language across documents so that we have consistency in tone

These documents will be available for review ahead of signups to the new member portal; they will also be easily reviewed and signed from within the portal when you are ready to join. Look for emails from the Member Futures team in the weeks ahead.

9. My focus is partnerships, sponsors, and new “angel” donors. Despite all the progress and the incredible good will flowing through this community, we have some big needs ahead. Among them:
– Building programs that deliver meaningful community impact. These include art and cultural production support services, youth development partnerships, adult learning and workforce development programs, entrepreneurship support. If you have ideas about potential partnerships to activate, please reach out!
– Our shops need new tools, and I’m starting with the machine shop and metal shop. Among the requirements are to secure upgrades to our vertical mills and lathes, metal cutting and welding tools, and potentially secure additional CNC machining capability.
– We’re still going to face an operating cash crunch by Q2 of FY22 and we’re going to need just a couple of angels to pitch in and pull us out of the ditch. This organization runs so tightly, with such incredible earned income cashflow and benefit to members, it should be an easy investment to make. If you know HNW individuals who love the arts, please send them my way!

Overall, we’re on track for a January 2022 opening, and that is in NO SMALL PART because of you. Thank you so much for sticking with the Asylum in FY2021 – a year of seriously dramatic highs and lows – for me personally as the ED, for everyone who has struggled with the isolation and uncertainty of Covid-19, and as an organization rife with risks among them the bottoming out of our education revenue and the looming requirements of our move.

HOWEVER you have persisted and you have helped us sail these waters. THANK YOU deeply, sincerely for your support in FY21 – it has been a pleasure and an honor to serve this community; I hope that you feel confident and hopeful and optimistic about our future together.

And before I forget! We passed our $150,000 goal yesterday at 1:15PM – great work everyone! Here are a few stats:
• Our first gift was October 1, 2020 and our last was June 30, 2021, during which time
• 30 fundraisers secured $150,094 from
• 393 donors who made 753 unique gifts including
• 6 donors created matching campaigns

We still have $5,500 in outstanding pledges, so I’m banking on our final raise being $155,594. Success! And its not too late: if you’d like to get in on the final few hours, make a gift at:
http://artisanstoallston.support 

Thanks so much, and have a wonderful Fourth of July holiday. Sincerely, and with gratitude.

Lars Hasselblad Torres, Executive Director
Artisan’s Asylum, Inc.

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