In the two-and-a-half years since the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts fired key staffers and canceled exhibitions, the Shadyside-based mainstay has continued to operate. But the organization's financial troubles only worsened. With foundation funding and membership both down, and facing a budget shortfall of about $1 million, on Aug. 21 the PCA shut its doors indefinitely. Thirteen full- and part-time staffers were laid off, including Executive Director Lou Karras.
The center described the closure, the result of an Aug. 19 vote by its board of directors, as a "temporary suspension of operations"; community art camps and scheduled weddings will continue through 2004. Board President Catherine Kraus said the PCA will try to accommodate other selected events, including the upcoming Artist of the Year exhibition featuring animator Jim Duesing, though Kraus said that exhibit might have to be postponed from its scheduled Sept. 10 start date.
As detailed in the April 10, 2002, CP cover story "What's Wrong With This Picture?" the PCA has long faced internal tension including disagreement over the center's mission. But at the time of the previous round of firings, PCA officials insisted that the institution's financial problems, at least, were under control.
"We kind of were in denial the whole time," says Kraus now. Despite a budget slashed to $1.5 million -- about half what it was just two years ago -- the PCA continued to pile up debt. Meanwhile, its primary source of revenue, foundation grants, dropped about 25 percent, says Kraus, a result of "the economic landscape," and remaining staff were hard-pressed to raise more funds.
For now, the PCA is concentrating on paying outstanding bills and getting enough money to re-open. "We're accepting contributions at any level," says Kraus.