The Arts Council wants the city to underwrite some expenses so it can take over the struggling business.
They're all volunteers, and they're working under tight budget constraints.
But in six years, the Savage Arts Council has established three marquee arts events in their hometown. They're the force behind the annual Scott County Art Crawl, the Minnesota River Arts Fair and the Savage Juried Art Competition & Show.
Now the Arts Council wants to expand its mission and absorb a struggling local arts studio into its nonprofit. But it needs the city to help make it happen. Arts Council leaders explained their aspirations to the Savage City Council and asked them for financial support to take over the Savage Arts Studios and Gallery.
The presentation at a recent work session focused on the group's accomplishments and goals but was light on numbers. The Arts Council is asking the city for help with rent, marketing and the hiring of personnel to run the space. Rent alone, even at a reduced rate, would be more than $34,000 year, according to city staff.
More than two dozen arts volunteers and supporters attended the work session.
Arts Council board member Denise Baerg said having a hometown arts studio, gallery and classroom space has helped root the fledgling Scott County arts scene in Savage.
"Together we really have a dynamic arts community. What we want to do is keep what we have," Baerg explained.
Baerg said the Arts Council will present a more concrete proposal including numbers at the Savage City Council's Aug. 27 work session.
"First, we wanted to make sure we had the conversation with the city about the value of art in the community -- look at and understand the vision," Baerg said.
If the Arts Council took over the studio, members said they'd like to continue programming as well as expand events and classes.
Nearly 500 adults and children take classes at the arts studio annually. The studio also hosts nonprofit exhibits and offers "Free Fridays" where artists can use studio space for free.
The studio is now owned and operated by Savage resident and artist Jo Storey. She and a group of artists opened the studio in the Hamilton building.
The city, which owns the retail space, charged the artists reduced rent to occupy the downtown storefront. But Storey said the economic downturn has ravaged the business and she can't continue to run the studio. Last year, the business brought in nearly $92,000 in revenue from art sales and studio space rentals but ultimately lost $10,000.
Storey said the studio is a labor of love, and she's been doing it for free for the last few years.
Last winter, Storey agreed to keep the studio's doors open while the Arts Council formulated a plan to take over the space. Storey is paying $1 a month in rent in the interim.
"I can't continue doing this much longer for free," Storey said. "There needs to be some resolution."
City Council members listened intently to the proposal but were tight-lipped with their opinions on spending more taxpayer dollars on arts programs.
Several council members asked for more financial information from the Arts Council.
"Do we have a dollar amount? What are we looking at?" asked Council Member Al McColl.
"I'd really like to see the numbers. I am a numbers guys," Council Member Gene Abbott said minutes later.
Baerg agreed to compile and share more financial information with the City Council at the next meeting. The Arts Council has paid for its activities with donations, grants, sponsorships and artist participation fees.
In 2011, the Arts Council brought in $12, 500.
It projects that number to increase to $42,000 this year with the addition of the Minnesota River Arts Fair.
Baerg said she thinks there's community support and momentum building for Savage's arts movement.
"Not every kid is athletic. Not every adult is athletic. Some people want to do cultural activities in addition to going to the kids' soccer games, and not have to drive a half hour to get there," Baerg said.
Shannon Prather is a Twin Cities freelance writer.