Arts Obispo to move offices

The SLO County Arts Council, also known as Arts Obispo, is moving into a space owned by the city of San Luis Obispo as a way to reduce overhead and increase programming in the face of diminished funding. It will lose its gallery but will collaborate with other organizations and venues to maintain a full roster of events.

The San Luis Obispo City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a one-year lease agreement for a 600-square-foot office at the Ludwick Community Center at 1123 Mill St. The rent is $1,294 per year, which is the estimated annual cost of utilities for the office.

The nonprofit council, with a budget of $226,000 for 2011-12, has been paying $1,900 per month for rent at its approximately 1,300-square-foot office and gallery space at the Creamery in downtown San Luis Obispo.

Arts Obispo put out a call last month for donated office space anywhere in the county after its board took a hard look at its finances and mission.“We have a mission to enhance art education. We don’t have to have a gallery to do that To reduce overhead plus increase collaborating, it’s a win-win,” said Charlotte Alexander, executive director for Arts Obispo.

Government grants to the organization have declined by approximately 27 percent since 2007, when it received $48,000.

The space at the Ludwick Center, zoned only for use by government or quasi-government agencies, has been on the market since September. Arts Obispo is considered a government entity because it was conceived nearly 30 years ago as an umbrella agency for arts planning locally, said Alexander.

The fiscal impact of the new lease results in a hypothetical loss of $9,706 annually in revenues to the city if it were to lease the space at the market rate.

Eight other organizations have similar reduced-rate leases with the city, such as $1 per year for the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, Children’s Museum, Historical Museum (in the Carnegie Library), Little Theater, Railroad Museum, Smallbore Association and the YMCA. The Prado Day Center for the homeless pays no rent.

Currently, Arts Obispo has two full-time employees and one part-time staff member, plus the help of hundreds of volunteers who assist in popular events including Art After Dark and Open Studios Art Tour programs, among other programs supporting the visual, literary and performing arts.

Arts Obispo plans to leave its current office and gallery by Dec. 31. Its first collaborative art show of the new year is “Love Songs,” which will take place in February in partnership with Studios in the Park in Paso Robles.