Less than a year ago, a new board at Warehouse 21 announced a planned revamp of the Railyard-based teen arts center with a rebranding effort, new name, new programs and an interior overhaul designed to draw a more sophisticated crowd.
Now, another new board has taken over the organization and is tasked with cleaning up the nonprofit’s financial standing and getting its 10-year-old building up to code.
As the group works to straighten out missteps and budget deficits, said new board President Elliot Stern, it also is working to revitalize art and music programs and return Warehouse 21 to a teen-focused nonprofit.
“We developed a plan to get it back on its feet again,” said Stern, a co-owner and vice president of solar energy company Amenergy Inc. “We’ve had to essentially heal the past as well as look to the future.”
If Warehouse 21 had been a business rather than a nonprofit, he said, it would have made more sense to file for bankruptcy and start fresh. But because the teen center has a long history in the community — more than 20 years — the board is fighting to maintain its legacy and mission.
“Warehouse 21 is reassessing its programs,” says the group’s website, warehouse21.org. “A new website will be coming soon.”
A Facebook page for the nonprofit announces an upcoming Election Day music celebration for youth, and videos tout “the new Warehouse 21” that’s under development.
Financial struggles in 2016 and 2017 left Warehouse 21 with a deficit that Stern estimated to be between $50,000 and $70,000. Mistakes were made on 2014 tax forms, he said, and IRS documents for later years were never filed.
The building — a $2.5 million, two-story facility on Paseo de Peralta that was funded in part by the city of Santa Fe and houses a state-of-the-art recording studio, performance areas and a digital media lab — needs maintenance, added Stern, who joined the board in May.
Keeping the doors open costs about $6,000 a month, he said, and by the start of this month, that costs was being covered by board members.
When it’s fully operational, the organization plans to have an annual budget of about $214,000. Stern remains positive that Warehouse 21 will see a shift by January as the board finds sponsors and partnerships to ensure the future of organization.
“Are we going to be able to maintain this?” Stern said. “We’re certainly going to try to.”
The nonprofit has struggled with financial challenges for several years. But its current turmoil began last year, when founder Ana Gallegos y Reinhardt told board members she was stepping down and that the nonprofit needed “a more sustainable long-term plan and a new model.”
She helped the board, a newly assembled group at the time, come up with a new name, Studio Center of Santa Fe.
Reinhardt, who started the organization in 1996 in an old graffiti-covered warehouse in the Railyard, saw it through a major transition, when the dilapidated building was razed and a new building constructed.
She also watched as the center’s popularity among teens began to dwindle — a big reason for the decision last year to expand its appeal adults in their 20s and 30s.
Stern said the previous board, as part of its planned overhaul, had signed contracts for promised enhancements, such as a cafe, but never followed up. The new board hopes to create a cafe for teens, he said, as well as a computer lab.
New board members also are working to generate new ideas for the center, he said, such as digital arts classes for teens, music production programs and youth-focused events.
“We’re trying to develop not only artistic appreciation, but artistic skills,” Stern said. “We make almost no effort to get youth involved in arts and culture and this is one way to encourage it.”
There also are plans for a teen advisory board to help brainstorm ideas, he said.
“I’m not saying it’ll be an easy job, but I think it’s important enough to make this program a reality,” Stern said. “It’s too soon to know how successful we’ll be.”
For the remainder of 2018, he said, the board will continue its outreach efforts in the community and will meet with city officials.
The city was once a source of revenue for the center. Warehouse 21 last received funding from the city’s Children and Youth Commission, $19,200, in the 2015-16 grant period, said Julie Sanchez, program manager for the Santa Fe Youth and Family Services Division.
The nonprofit didn’t meet requirements for the following grant period, Sanchez said, and didn’t file a request this year.
Stern said the new board hopes to resume receiving city funding and have better communication with officials. “We’re at a crossroads now, and we need to discuss the city’s interest in continuing this in this building,” he said.
Craig Anderson, former executive director and curator at the Center for Contemporary Arts, also serves on the new Warehouse 21 board. He’s a holdout from the previous board that tried to make the switch to Studio Center. Asked if he thought the organization was at risk of repeating its past failures, Anderson said, “Hell no.”
“There have been some ups and downs,” he said. “This is a new game.”
Rebuilding the nonprofit teen center has been a labor of love, he said.
“We want people to understand it’s a safe place and a well-organized place for kids to be,” Anderson said. “People will be very interested and surprised by what we got going here.”
If you go
What: Voice your Vote, a free, all-ages Election Day music event
When: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday,
Where: Warehouse 21, 1614 Paseo de Peralta
This story has been amended to reflect Craig Anderson was formerly the executive director and curator at the Center for Contemporary Arts.