Recession blues: IFCC shuts down

Actor Daniel Beaty in 2008's "Resurrection" at IFCC

Bad news often breaks on Friday afternoons, and today is no exception: The Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center is shutting its doors.

The Oregonian’s D.K. Row has the story on Oregon Live; expect him to explore it in greater depth soon.

Interstate Firehouse Cultural CenterThe city-run Portland Parks & Recreation, which owns the old firehouse and its grounds, announced that the non-profit IFCC’s board has voted to cease operations because of persistent deficits, in spite of decent attendance at events.

The center’s failure is a blow to Portland’s alternative and multicultural arts scenes. Over the years IFCC has had its ups and downs, but since it began in 1982 it’s been a welcoming space for emerging theater and dance companies, visual artists, musicians, and community events. Artists who often felt shut out of downtown spaces found a congenial home here, as did North and Northeast Portland residents who discovered the joys of having a vital art center close to home.

The shutdown takes effect May 1, but existing rental contracts through June 30 will be honored. That means, presumably, that upcoming shows by Rose City Vaudeville and Vagabond Opera, as well as IFCC’s share of Disjecta‘s Portland2010 biennial art exhibit, will go on as planned.

IFCC’s problems reflect the difficulties that the prolonged international economic crisis presents to cultural organizations, especially small and midsized ones. Put simply, everyone’s strapped for cash, and traditional sources are either tapped out or stretched thin. IFCC’s budget is built on just 20 percent earned income, the rest coming from foundation, corporate, individual and government grants. For everyone, those are getting tougher and tougher to nail down.

Read the parks department’s press release after the jump:

(Portland, OR) – Faced with decreasing donations and grants during the continuing recession, the board of directors of the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, Inc. (IFCC) has made the difficult, but responsible decision to shut down operation of the nearly 28-year old non-profit arts organization as of May 1, 2010.

Despite generally good attendance at its exhibitions and performances, IFCC, Inc. is still faced with a significant budget shortfall, one that has forced the operating board to make the decision that the program needs to close indefinitely while the board regroups and determines a transition plan.

IFCC, Inc. has been a tenant of the City of Portland, operating out the City’s historic former firehouse located on North Interstate Avenue. The firehouse building is managed by Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R), who will be exploring possible future tenants for the site.

PP&R will review events that have been scheduled at the facility after May 1 and will make determinations about any staffing needs that may be required. Existing rental agreements will be honored until June 30.

IFCC, Inc. is governed by a community-based Board of Directors and run by a staff of three, with help from volunteers. Earned income, including rental fees, class fees and ticket sales, account for 20% of the organization’s income. The remainder comes from foundation and government grants, and corporate and individual contributions.

IFCC, Inc. has historically been subsidized through Portland Parks & Recreation in the form of an annual grant and through maintenance of the facility.

IFCC, Inc. may explore reorganizing in some form in the future and continue their focus of celebrating culturally diverse artists and audiences.

In the meantime, in an effort to limit closure of the firehouse building and continue programs for the North Portland community, Portland Parks & Recreation staff are open to exploring options with other non-profit organizations interested in providing programming at the site.

Founded in 1982 under the leadership of then Portland Parks Commissioner Charles Jordan, IFCC quickly became an important multicultural arts organization in Portland. IFCC, Inc. was established as a private non-profit organization in 1988.


PHOTOS, from top:

— Actor Daniel Beaty in 2008’s “Resurrection” at IFCC.

— Exterior of the cultural center.