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Eugene Performing Arts Center, faced with financial crisis, seeks urgent funding

The Eugene Performing Arts Center announced Thursday that without urgent donations, it may be forced to close.

The young nonprofit hosts summer camps, teaches classes throughout the school year and also has a competitive dance team.

When Chrissa Dockendorf purchased the center several years ago, it was known as the Dance Factory. She eventually changed the name, and from 2019-2022 the center functioned as a for-profit business. In September 2022, the center became a nonprofit and registered its new status with the State of Oregon. Dockendorf told KLCC its status as a federal nonprofit is pending.

"With a heavy heart, we’re contacting you today to share some challenging news about our beloved performing arts school," began an email sent early Thursday morning from the organization's leadership to parents and supporters.

"Despite our relentless efforts to secure donor funds, we find ourselves in a situation where we must urgently seek support to keep the doors of our school open," continued the message, which detailed the effects of pandemic-related enrollment declines and a shortfall in arts funding.

Last month, summer camp students performed the musical Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Wildish Theater. Ticket sales helped the production break even.

Dockendorf serves as the school's executive director, and says ticket sales alone are not enough. Tuition, donations and grants all matter, and downward trends now have the school facing a shortfall of $10,000 per month in funding from where it was a year ago.

"There is a potential that we would have to close our doors in the next couple of months. As of right now we’re behind on rent, and we are struggling to make payroll,” said Dockendorf in an interview early Thursday.

The nonprofit employs between nine and 10 staff members, in addition to incurring costs for rent, training, maintenance, theater rental, props and costumes. Dockendorf said annual operating expenses range from $210,000 to $230,000 and that the center is currently two months behind on rent.

Inflation, fewer students, and existing students taking fewer classes are all causing a decline in revenue, said Dockendorf. She said parents have different reasons for not enrolling. Some have said they can no longer afford it, while others have felt the need to pull back and reassess schedules as families and schools continue to recover after the height of the pandemic.

The center hopes to swiftly raise enough money to stay afloat while it seeks larger grants, which take time to identify and apply for, to keep operating.

Dockendorf called the situation heart-wrenching for her and her staff, who love their work and the kids they serve.

"We have to ask for help," Dockendorf said. "If we don't, we won't be able to do the things that we need to do for the for these kids and for this community."

Jill Burke became KLCC's arts reporter in February, 2023.
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