Acadiana Center for the Arts seeks $750,000 from financing authority _lowres

ACA Executive Director Gerd Wuestemann

The Acadiana Center for the Arts is reaching out for $750,000 to shore up its budget while the arts organization works on a plan to secure more stable funding to end a hand-to-mouth existence for operations.

ACA Executive Director Gerd Wuestemann made a pitch for the funding at Tuesday’s meeting of the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority, a self-supporting public agency that makes money through investments, financing and real estate holdings and uses the proceeds to support public projects.

ACA manages the city-owned downtown arts center and oversees a broad range of visual and performing arts initiatives in the Acadiana area, ranging from live shows, exhibits and workshops to summer camps and programs that bring art instruction into area schools.

But the organization’s annual budget of $2.2 million is strained, Wuestemann told the LPTFA.

“In addition to that, we are gravely understaffed,” he said.

Wuestemann asked the LPTFA’s board for $750,000 spread over three years, money to stabilize the budget while ACA explores new revenue streams.

He said if the funding is approved, ACA has no plans to return for more.

“So we are incentivized to get our butt in gear, for lack of a better word,” he said.

There is no specific proposal on the table for a new and stable revenue source for ACA, but Wuestemann mentioned the possibility of a tax or a fee tacked on to local car rentals.

The LPTFA did not vote Tuesday on the ACA request.

LPTFA board members were receptive but wanted more information on the specifics of how the money would be used.

“We hate being on the hook for writing a blank check,” LPTFA Vice-Chairman Celeste White said.

ACA draws its funding from a mix of sources, including membership dues, sponsorships, donations, admission to events and grants.

City-parish government gives ACA $285,000 a year, which helps cover utilities and expenses related to building maintenance at the city’s downtown arts center.

Wuestemann said operating the new arts center, a $25 million facility that was completed in 2011, has been a challenge under the current budget.

He said resources were stressed further when the Performing Arts Society of Acadiana, once an independent group, merged with ACA in 2013 as part of plan to breathe new life into PASA.

Finding the money to pay ACA’s current staff of 13 full-time and seven part-time workers is a perennial challenge, Wuestemann said, and at least four more positions are needed.

“ACA at present cannot be sufficiently staffed to operate to its potentials,” he wrote in a written proposal presented at Tuesday’s LPTFA meeting.

No date has been set for the LPTFA to formally consider the request.