Ix Art Park, a nonprofit known for its organization and involvement in several Charlottesville-area arts events and exhibits, has announced that it will be pausing operations because of funding challenges. Five full-time employees were removed from the payroll as part of the ongoing pause.
Ix Art Park manages a communal art space near downtown Charlottesville. The space is used for many community-oriented events aimed at fostering creative empowerment, inclusivity and collaboration.
One of the affected exhibits is the Looking Glass, an immersive art space where guests can interact with three-dimensional art installations created by local artists. The Saturday farmers market and Sunset Market — organized by Market Central but taking place at the park — will not be affected by the change. Both markets are popular weekend activities for many University students.
Discussions about the future of Ix Art Park are ongoing between the foundation’s board, key donors and the property owner. Ix leadership thinks the nonprofit has been trying to stretch itself too thin.
Susan Krischel, founder and board president of the Ix Art Park foundation, said she’s trying to take a step back and look at the change with an optimistic perspective.
“Sometimes I think the Ix Art Park was trying to be everything to everybody,” Krischel said. “We just need to slow down, pay attention to where our strengths are and focus on those first.”
Krischel said lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still influence the nonprofit’s ability to stay financially afloat. One of the largest drains on the foundation’s finances was their decision to keep full-time employees on the payroll despite a halt in operations during the pandemic.
“We just didn’t want to see [our employees] become casualties of what many across the country were casualties of,” Kirschel said. “And then we came into inflation as soon as the pandemic was over, so prices of labor, insurance and running things increased dramatically.”
While other organizations had a strong donor base to rely on during the pandemic, the foundation, which only transitioned to a nonprofit model in late 2019, struggled to find much donor support. Krischel noted that the Art Park generally relies more on earned revenue than donations, so the pandemic was especially harsh when programming was severely limited.
One of the Art Park’s more ambitious projects is the Looking Glass, which Krischel proudly acknowledges as the first and only installation of its kind in Virginia. According to Krischel, the project, opened in 2019, was expensive to construct and staff. It will now only be open on weekends.
According to Ix Art Park’s 2022 Impact Report — a statistical analysis of the outreach and participation of the nonprofit — the nonprofit had a significant impact on the Charlottesville community in 2022, attracting a cumulative audience of around 290,000 people across all events. The foundation also provided arts-based programming for children through a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club and their own six-week summer arts camp.
Stevie Meyer, a second-year College student who grew up in Charlottesville, said that the Ix Art Park has been a very important part of the Charlottesville creative scene, hosting a variety of events including Charlottesville Pride. Meyer said he believes the news of the foundation’s financial struggles might motivate more people to get involved.
“Hearing that [Ix Art Park] is struggling with funding right now is going to mobilize people to care about it more,” Meyer said. “So I don’t think this is going to be the end in any way — there’s going to be a lot of interest in revitalizing it.”
Aside from the Farmers Market, though, the University community has historically not been very involved with the Ix Art Park’s programming, something both Krischel and Meyer noted.
“A lot of people just forget that there’s a larger community around,” Meyer said. “Between academics, tons of CIOs on Grounds, Greek life and whatever job they have, it makes sense that a lot of people don’t have a lot of time to explore Charlottesville.”
Not every program will disappear when the Park pauses its operations, and Market Central, the organizer of the farmers market at the Ix Art Park, reaffirmed their continued programming in a Sept. 15 blog post, though they mentioned that community talks will be held this fall and winter to discuss the long term future of local markets.
In an email to The Cavalier Daily, Market Central said community talks about the market’s future are still in the planning stage.
“The Ix Art Park has been a sponsor and supporter of the markets, and will continue to be,” they wrote in their blog. “However, we do need to address the future of markets in the community, and invite anyone interested in future forums to contact Market Central.”
Although there are many long term logistics currently up in the air, Krischel said she remains committed to the project and optimistic about its future. She hopes the Art Park can use this pause as an opportunity to reassess its mission in a way that could be beneficial to the longevity of the organization and its role in the community.
“This is not a goodbye,” Krischel said. “This is more us breathing and re-analysing where we are. We’re not gone.”