In May, I reported that the nonprofit organization Art Pulse was significantly scaling back its programming. The cutbacks, Executive Director April Game said, were due to an unexpected loss of financial support from Henry Moon, who'd been Art Pulse's largest funding source since its founding in 2007.
After the story ran, a few Art Pulse contractors contacted me to complain that the organization has owed them money since late last year for work on Art Pulse TV, a visual-arts-focused television show that aired on NBC 7 San Diego last year (a program to which I once contributed), and Culture Buzz, an online platform for arts criticism and features. While some contractors have been paid in the meantime, others say they're still owed.
Also, in the comments section of the earlier story on CityBeat's website, Felicia Shaw, director of arts and culture at the San Diego Foundation, took issue with Game's comment about a county Board of Supervisors initiative called Live Well San Diego, which Game said could eventually result in the creation of a countywide council for the arts. Formation of such a council has long been one of Game's personal goals and Art Pulse's overarching mission.
"Staff has been clear since the beginning that there are no plans to establish a countywide arts council and their intentions shouldn't be misrepresented," wrote Shaw, who, alongside Game, serves on the county's Arts Enrichment Action Team for Live Well San Diego.
Another commenter on the story criticized Game's description of the plight of Art Pulse's loss of an angel investor as "the same old story for nonprofits."
"The truth is, unlike the majority of nonprofit arts organizations I've known and worked with over the years, Game relied on one significant funder to support her vision and has not, for whatever reason, found other funding that would create sustainability through diversified resources," wrote Victoria Plettner Saunders, founder of the recently launched arts-job website artcareercafe.com.
Game, who, back in May, told CityBeat she'd be fundraising and pursuing grant opportunities to keep the organization afloat, now says she's ready to throw in the towel. She says that fundraising and other attempts to keep Art Pulse financially feasible have been unsuccessful.
"The last of the fight has been taken out of me," Game says, visibly upset. "Art Pulse is closing."
The organization's board of directors will meet this week, she says, to start the winding-down process. She says that the outstanding invoices will be paid within the next two months.
Art Pulse Gallery at Bread & Salt will close its doors at the end of July, but Game says she'll look for homes for some of Art Pulse's other programming during the next few months. She hopes to see initiatives like the Mentor Program, which provides San Diego artists with professional career training, continue, possibly under the wing of an existing nonprofit. The program has served some well-known San Diego artists, including one-time CityBeat cover artist Bhavna Mehta, who lists the Mentor Program as a major step in her professional career.
"It was really the beginning of me being introduced to the San Diego arts community," Mehta says. "It's been a really good thing for me."
Game says that Snorkl, an arts-and-culture events website and email newsletter spearheaded by Art Pulse, will continue to be funded even after the organization closes. She says she'll work to keep it going because the site is so new and can potentially become self-sufficient through online advertising.
While she doesn't want to comment specifically on Shaw's criticism of her hope that Live Well San Diego would create a countywide arts council, she says she'll give up her personal advocacy for that idea, too.
"If the conversation has advanced that some cultural infrastructure at the county level would be good, then great," Game says. "But San Diego is on its own now... Personally, I think I'll start withdrawing myself from the art scene. I think I've done my part. I'm tired."
Game says she still thinks a countywide arts council is possible under the current Board of Supervisors and that the "prep work has been done," in part by Art Pulse, but the concept needs a team of active advocates to become a reality.
"At least we can say, at the end of the day, we did our best," Game says about Art Pulse and its seven-year footprint in the San Diego arts community. "Was it good enough? I don't know. There's only so much a person can do."