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Railyard’s Warehouse 21 faces uncertain future

SANTA FE, N.M. — Months after a rebranding announcement that promised a new look, new programs and new partnerships for the Railyard’s Warehouse 21 teen arts center – as well as a new name – questions linger about the organization’s future.

Two members of the center’s four-person board of directors, treasurer Kim Langbecker and Peter Sills, resigned April 18. An email sent out by board secretary Craig Anderson around the same time said the center was “on the verge of closing its doors” if fundraising goals weren’t met.

But Anderson said this week via email that the board is currently working with stakeholders to establish a new program and is “steadily resolving many of the impediments” the board as formerly constituted left behind.

“The new Board and its Advisors will not be deterred from the mission of serving Santa Fe’s youth and teenagers under the 501(c)3 designation of a revitalized hub for youth directed activities in the arts and culture, youth development and educational opportunities,” Anderson wrote.

The name change to Studio Center of Santa Fe, announced in November, apparently is on the way out. Anderson said the new name was never official and that the name Warehouse 21 has “re-emerged.”

Warehouse 21 has been a mainstay in the Railyard, providing arts programs and a performance venue for young people that for years made it a favorite hangout for many of Santa Fe’s arts-oriented teens. But it has had its ups and downs, and city government has in effect subsidized its operation, giving city taxpayers a stake in what happens at the center.

In 2011, Warehouse 21 was in arrears on rental payments for its site in the city-owned Railyard.

The City Council agreed to count the teen center’s programs and services toward the rental costs.

City government also put $1 million into construction of the Warehouse 21 building, which opened in 2008.

Long-time director Ana Gallegos y Reinhardt retired in November. The board took over the nonprofit and announced the name change to Studio Center of Santa Fe.

In his recent email saying funds were needed to keep the doors open, Anderson said the nonprofit also was waiting for “significant funding from a local foundation and the City of Santa Fe.”

“We are facing the possibility that exciting and engaging public programming for Santa Fe youth may be ending if we are unable to meet our funding goal,” the email stated.

Langbecker, one of the two board members who stepped down in April, said last week that she resigned because other professional commitments left her not enough time to fully commit to Warehouse 21. According to LinkedIn, she is a nonprofit consultant, technology firm partner and a podcast executive producer.

Sills, the other board member who resigned, told the Journal he quit largely because of the organization’s financial issues.

“Expenses and liability was significantly greater than revenue and assets,” he said, adding that the organization was in the red when he left last month.

“I didn’t know how viable the place would be in the future,” he said.

Sills also said he personally loaned money to keep the center going but didn’t see any “methodology” for the loan to be paid back.

Anderson told the Journal last week that Sills does not have current information on Warehouse 21 nor the authority to speak about the center. He also questioned Sills’ motives for doing so.

An emailed statement Anderson provided Tuesday says the existing board is stronger than before with the help of a new advisory team. The statement did not directly address any of Sills’ comments besides saying Sills is “entitled to his position and the reasons on which he chose to resign.” The statement also did not address the fundraising email Anderson sent out last month that implied the organization was in dire financial straits.

The April board resignations followed a decision to move away from the “Studio Center” idea, according to Anderson.

A November news release announced what then-board member Langbecker described as a new “grown up” name. The release said the name change was part of plans to focus more on local partnerships and stabilizing finances, and to modify programming. Also announced were conversion of the first floor performance space into a gallery and the second floor theater into an all-purpose performance venue. The remodel was scheduled for completion this spring.

According to Anderson, the name change and plans that went with it were never official.

“It never matured beyond being a concept and thus never gained the traction to replace Warehouse 21 as a formal entity,” Anderson wrote in his email. He said the November news release was written by Sills.

Sills, for his part, wouldn’t say how much he loaned to the organization or how much debt the center was in when he left, although he said it was not a “tremendous” amount. During his short tenure with the nonprofit, he said, the main problem he saw was fundraising.

Sills said one problem affecting grants and donations was the fact that the nonprofit has been behind on its tax filings, putting its 501(c)3 nonprofit status in jeopardy.

Guidestar, a nonprofit reporting database, shows that Warehouse 21’s last Form 990 – which makes public basic information about a nonprofit’s financial information – was for the 2015 fiscal year. The Secretary of State’s Office lists Santa Fe Teen Arts Center, the nonprofit’s official name, as active, but “not in good standing.”

Sills also said there are problems with the Warehouse 21 building. As per the nonprofit’s lease agreement, infrastructure upkeep is the organization’s responsibility, according to city asset development director Matthew O’Reilly.

O’Reilly said Anderson and board resident Paul Rainbird met with him earlier this month and mentioned a fire alarm system that doesn’t work and other issues, including some with plumbing and HVAC systems. The city sent a letter May 9 stating the broken fire alarm system needed the be fixed immediately. Correspondence from Anderson to O’Reilly on May 10 indicated the board was in the process of repairing the alarms.

As of Tuesday, O’Reilly said the city was working to schedule a facility walk-through to better understand any additional maintenance problems and figure out the organization’s timeline for fixing them.

“The building has been being used for a long time now and we’ve never heard of any problems,” O’Reilly said . “We don’t know if this is something serious or if they’re thinking there are repairs that are needed.”

Anderson wrote that the facility has confirmed renting space for performances throughout June and July. He said the board is currently reviewing more rental requests and its advisory committee is working on a to-be-announced “exciting program to revitalize the Teen Arts Center.”

Sills said he still hopes Rainbird and Anderson can pull together the resources or supporters needed to keep the doors of Warehouse 21 open long term.

“If people in this town want it, they really need to show that support,” Sills said.

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