Southington Community Cultural Arts Center (SoCCA) has come a long way from their initial gathering of local artists and art advocates in 2008 to opening and operating a fully functional community art center that is gaining media coverage all of over the state of Connecticut. The spearhead of this vision, Mary DeCroce, worked diligently with her team and the community to raise the funds necessary to make her vision a reality. SoCCA’s grand opening in 2016 coincided with the infamous Apple Harvest Festival, an event that is awaited by an estimated 100,000 visitors annually. Formerly the M. Gura Building, SoCCA is located in a high traffic area of town and includes a gallery, small performance area, retail space for artisan work, a catering room, a large workroom, five artist studios, a pottery room, and a soundproof music room.
Now as the Executive Director, Mary is doing an extraordinary job at making sure the Art Center is equipped with the tools needed to have a sustainable and successful future. Through the help of the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s Community Art Center Catalyst program and their Business Volunteer for the Arts professional, Wendy Ronitz-Baker, SoCCA has made some major leeway into their financial future.
Wendy has over 20 years of experience working as an IT professional and project manager for a variety of different companies; including ESPN, The Blue Man Group, and CIGNA. She has done consultant work for many small businesses and start-ups to assess work and data flow. Additionally, she has led multiple non-profits through event planning, budgeting, fundraising, and grant writing for over 9 years. As a member of the Wallingford Women’s Writers Group, President of the Wallingford Chorus and President of the Meriden Arts Council, Wendy uses a plethora of non-profit skills every day.
Wendy describes what it was like working on this project, “Working directly with the Executive Director was key! Mary has a strong vision for the center and has the board support to make decisions and implement policies as needed to run the center. This made it very easy for us to talk about a wide range of topics and to freely explore options for how to address them. This was a very productive and enjoyable engagement because I felt like real progress was being made each time we met.”
SoCCA identified the following budgetary goals; to reset the organizational budget numbers, review the finances for the All Access program, and reassess classes. At the start of this project, SoCCA was a fresh new organization and only had three months under their belt. This didn’t stop them from evaluating their programs and finances; in fact it proved to be the most opportune time to help determine what was needed to make SoCCA a successful thriving arts center for years to come.
One of Wendy’s recommendations was to implement a monthly cash flow report which specifically breaks down operating expenses for the Art Center as a whole, the All Access Program, and shared services. This will allow SoCCA to evaluate their programs and make specific changes based on the findings. This is extremely important as the demand for programs like All Access is increasing with time. The All Access Program teaches adults with intellectual disabilities creative skills to help connect with their community and enhance their quality of life. “It is fulfilling a huge need not only in our community but people are coming to us from all over the state to participate in the program,” Mary says.
Although the heart and soul of this BVA project was to reassess SoCCA’s finances, Wendy worked with Mary to upgrade many organizational policies. “Wendy is extremely organized and detailed. By asking the right questions she helped me see the big picture, define my job description as an Executive Director and prepare others to share the workload,” says Mary. There is still plenty of work to be done, but I think we can all agree that SoCCA has had a productive first year in operation and will take this knowledge to continue their success for years to come.
Veterans Art Exhibit
Check out artwork created by Veterans in the Giant Steps Program running from July 3, 2017 – July 31, 2017! For more information on the exhibit please visit the Southington Community Cultural Arts Center website here.