BY RUTH RICE
As treasurer of Art Works in Johnstown! it is John Saracena’s job to make sure the board doesn’t go into debt to advance its cause.
“You can put the cart before the horse, but the horse has to pull the cart eventually,” said Saracena, who is managing director of Barnes Saly & Co., a certified public accounting firm.
“You don’t spend money before you identify the source to pay it and make sure it’s readily available. If we spend a dime, it has to have a revenue source and right purpose.”
Saracena’s responsibilities include looking over the books monthly, checking for new funding sources, reconciling bank statements and loans and preparing the paperwork for another CPA firm to do a review.
“I have to make sure the budgetary process is real and attainable,” he added.
“The last thing I want to do is go to the board and tell them something got blown because the money wasn’t there.”
Saracena also is chairman of the finance committee, an offshoot of his position as treasurer.
“I bring additional budgetary issues before the board and give input on what is needed financially by other committees,” Saracena said.
“We have an active board with opinions on where the money should go. Finances are critical in modifying the budget to drive the revenue. That’s a big discussion at every board meeting.”
In addition to a monthly board meeting, Saracena attends a finance committee meeting as needed.
“The meetings aren’t regularly scheduled, maybe two to four times a year,” he said.
Saracena initially got involved with Art Works when it was acquiring its tax-exempt status.
“I was asked to be on the board,” he said.
“They were forming a new company, and I didn’t know anything about Art Works. From the bylaws, I could tell it was a good organization and decided to stay involved.”
“I went from not knowing anything, to asking a lot of questions, to supporting it once I learned the flavor of Art Works.”
Primary sources of income for Art Works are grants, soliciting donations from the public, sponsoring events and receiving commissions on sold artworks.
“We’ve just opened a store, which should cover overhead costs,” Saracena said.
“Art Works is a nonprofit even though artists look at it as a business. We provide an environment for them below fair-market value, and they develop art appreciation. I think we’ve achieved our nonprofit goal of educating the public about art.”
“Our company is a strong believer in giving back to the community. We encourage our employees to participate in nonprofit organizations.”
Because Saracena can’t be at Art Works on a day-to-day basis, he keeps in contact with executive director Theresa Gay Rohall.
Rohall, who is part time, does everything in the day-to-day operations at Art Works.
She writes grants, schedules exhibits, works with programs and committees, plans fundraisers, pays the bills and does the budget.
“Right now, our operating budget is $106,000,” Rohall said.
“Our earned revenue comes from studio leasing, rentals of the multipurpose room for weddings, birthdays, etc., the gallery shop and classes. We’re still in our infancy and are still assessing our revenue streams.”
Art Works will have four fundraisers this year, three grassroots efforts and one gala.
The fundraisers already held include “Art Defines You,” with participants showcasing artwork which defined their personality; “Salvaged Treasures,” with participants creating new artwork from found objects; and “Come as You Art,” with participants dressing up as their favorite piece of art or artist.
The gala fundraiser will be “Fortune Smiles On You, Tombola,” which will be held Oct. 6.
For the fundraiser, participants will be able to win a piece of art right off Art Works’ walls.
The art raffle will feature a large revolving drum with each guest’s ticket stub inside.
As each ticket is drawn, the participant will be given the opportunity to choose a piece of art from the walls of the gallery.
“Artists have donated their works,” Rohall said.
“Those attending will have to watch what is left when it comes to their time to choose.”
Each fundraiser has a volunteer committee, and Rohall works with all of them.
“This is our first year of fundraising, and we hope they become annual events,” Rohall said.
“Salvaged Treasures is in its second year.”
Rohall also hopes to launch an Art Works membership campaign in the near future.
“There will be different levels,” she said.
“We’re still trying to determine what the benefits will be.”
Rohall also is always on the lookout for any type of grant she can find.
“Grants are specific and so are agency guidelines,” she said.
“Some organizations give grants for capital improvements, but they’re few and far between. Most funding is programmatic. Through the Community Foundation, we got a grant for art classes for those with cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities.”
Those few grants that are for operating expenses, such as paying for utilities and staff, can’t be counted on every year and are more for the early phase of an organization.
Rosemary Pawlowski, interim board president, agrees that a grant can’t always be counted on because a revenue stream has to be steady.
“You have to be creative,” she said.
“We need operating expenses, and there aren’t many grant opportunities for that, so it’s a big challenge.
“You can only use a grant for what it’s for, so if you have a grant for teaching 5 year olds to garden, you can’t use it for operating expenses.”
Rohall said private donations are always welcome and so are volunteers.
“We use volunteers when we can, so I’m happy to put your name on my list,” Rohall said.
“I’m happy to be part of the revitalization of the area with all the other cultural venues.”
Looking to the future, Pawlowski believes it is important to be able to operate with multiple revenue streams.
These would be garnered by renting out studio space, facilitating classes and workshops and holding special events.
“It can be a tough decision, but when you spend money, you have to know if you will grow money,” Pawlowski said.
“This is like a business.”
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