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Pay It Forward

Three years ago, Linda Danforth set out to bring creativity to the urban core of Tacoma. She started the nonprofit Tacoma Art Place on 11th Street, where she offered the space, tools and classes to foster that creativity. The organization has been, to all appearances, very successful. Which is sort of the problem. “Everyone thinks TAP is going so great,” Danforth says. “Yet we’re struggling to get enough members to pay the bills.”

One would think that finding folks willing to pay the organization’s four-dollar monthly membership fee for access to a community and classes, as well as paints, canvases, easels, a sewing machine and even a kiln, would be easy. Yet TAP remains a well-kept secret, loved by many, but not enough to keep it afloat for long. “We sold 179 classes on Groupon,” says Danforth of the online promotion tool, “so that tells us once people hear about us they want to give it a try.”

A lack of active members is not TAP’s only woe. The center is seeing a shortage of volunteers willing to work one shift a month to keep the doors open. It isn’t a difficult task, as TAP shifts consist of little more than answering the phone, being a membership and class enthusiast and mingling with artists and participants. “The Grand Cinema has hundreds of community volunteers, and we’d like to be like them,” says Danforth. “Eventually we’d love to get to the point where we have a small, efficient core staff and lots of volunteers and a more solid funding base.”

So the real question remains, can the Tacoma creative community afford the time and dollars it takes to support an establishment bent on helping it?  •

Photo by Chris Tumbusch

See more in the December 2010 issue   →