Future Uncertain After Sawmill Center Dismisses Director Amid Funding Issues

| February 1, 2019

COOKSBURG, Pa. (EYT) – The Cook Forest Sawmill Center for the Arts has fired its only full-time employee leaving many questions unanswered about the organization’s future.

The Board of Directors informed the Center’s Executive Director of the decision on Tuesday.

A source close to the situation told exploreClarion.com that the decision was a result of funding issues, and the future of the remaining staff is uncertain.

All staff members were asked to return their keys on Tuesday.

The staff consisted of one year-round, full-time employee; two seasonal full-time employees; and three seasonal part-time employees.

Continued funding for a non-profit facility like The Cook Forest Sawmill Center for the Arts can be trying. The organization relies heavily on business sponsors and private donations from individual contributors, as well as a number of small state and federal grants and minimal funding from Clarion County.

The organization’s revenue from operations, such as theatrical shows and classes, is minimal, as much of the ticket sales and fees go back to the theatrical groups and artist-teachers.

It’s unclear how The Cook Forest Sawmill Center for the Arts will move forward with operations; however, there is speculation that the Center’s board members may attempt to run the facility on a volunteer basis with limited staff.

Since its inception in the 1970’s, The Cook Forest Sawmill Center for the Arts, located at 170 Theatre Lane in Cooksburg, has offered a venue for everything from theatrical performances to classes in a wide range of arts to festivals showcasing a myriad of hand-crafted goods. The theatre portion of the center is named for the late Verna Leith, who first had the vision of turning the former sawmill structure into a community arts venue.

Cook Forest Sawmill Center Board President Matthew Kaye declined to comment on the situation.

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