CEDAR RAPIDS — Grassroots fundraising efforts are emerging to help save Cedar Rapids’ iconic arts presenting organization, Legion Arts, which recently revealed it is deep in debt.
Steve Shriver, a longtime business owner and advocate for the New Bohemia District, which is home to Legion Arts, was looking for a way to help after learning the organization owes about $100,000 to several artists and vendors locally and abroad.
“I saw this huge opportunity to help a flagship arts venue in our district,” Shriver said. “I want to see it be a symbolic gesture. We are with you CSPS, and we are in it for the long haul.”
Legion Arts owns and is based at CSPS Hall, 1103 Third St. SE, which was been a staple venue in the district as a community gathering space since being built in 1890.
Currently, it has several art exhibit halls, two performance spaces and a few retail spaces.
Andrea Shriver, who is married to Steve, suggested selling limited edition prints of an aerial picture of May’s Island that Shriver took from an airplane before the 2008 flood and which is on display above the bar at Brewhemia, a coffee shop owned by the Shrivers in NewBo.
Selling prints in three sizes, he raised $1,500.
The New Bohemia Group, an organization of artists, entrepreneurs, residents and business stakeholders, also is donating $2,000, said Shriver, who is a member.
Shriver said he hopes the donations inspire others to step up and create momentum for Legion Arts.
In recent weeks after news of the financial woes surfaced, a handful of Facebook fundraisers have been set up and shared. For example, Kathy Phelps Varney raised $265 through her Facebook network. A donation button was added to the CSPS Hall Facebook page upon request from fans. That has brought in $430.
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Taylor Bergan, the interim director of Legion Arts, said the organization has raised about $2,000 through Facebook fundraisers alone. Bergan recently took over for F. John Herbert, co-founder of Legion Arts and a pioneer in the local arts scene who stepped down in September.
Greg Brown, a Grammy-nominated folk musician and one of the area’s best-known artists, waived his fee for a benefit concert featuring Karen Savoca. The event raised about $6,000 last month for Legion Arts, Bergan said.
The donations at this point are going to establishing “organizational sustainability,” he said.
Bergan reiterated Legion Arts’ commitment to repaying all of its debts. He said the hope is to repay local artists by the end of the year. He estimated they are owed about a quarter of the total debt.
“Grassroots is a good way to put it,” Bergan said. “That is the stage we are at. Right now we are open to any help and ideas for people to engage with the organization and be part of it. We need community support.”
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