Merger Approved! Art To Become Charitable Non-Profit

After a twenty-day voting period, the cooperative owners of the Art Theater have approved a merger with the Art Film Foundation (AFF), a Champaign-based 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation. Owners overwhelming approved the merger, with 97% of the voting ownership pool approving.

The approved merger will dissolve cooperative ownership, bringing the Art into the fold of the AFF and conferring onto the Theater tax-exempt charitable status. The Art’s programming, staff, membership program, and daily operations will remain unchanged, but it will now be legally capable of soliciting tax-deductible funding from individuals, businesses, local and state foundations, and national non-profit arts funding organizations.

“The Board and I are very excited for the merger,” says Austin McCann, the Theater’s General Manager. “The Art has always found innovative ways to remain vital the Champaign-Urbana community. I’m very thankful for the owner’s support for the merger and their dedication to the positive transformations that make the Art such a crucial cultural space.”

The Art Film Foundation (AFF) is a Champaign-based 501(c) 3) tax-exempt charity founded in 2015 whose mission is to promote culture and education through film and cinema. Post-merger, the current Art Theater Board of Directors will be appointed to the Board of the AFF. “Merging the two Board’s together ensures stable leadership during the transition and provides a continued focus on incorporating community voices into the leadership of the Theater” says Leigh Estabrook, the current President of the Art Theater Board of Directors.

“I’ve been involved with the Art Theater for six years, and one of the most notable things about the Art and its supporters is its willingness to embrace change for the better,” says Alicia Kozma, an Art Theater Board Member. “The most consistent response we’ve had from cooperative owners regarding the transition discussion is their willingness to put the collective interest of the Theater over individual ones. The Art is certainly what it is today due to the dedication of the community that supports it.”

While the Art has made initial inroads in raising donations—most notably through the Kickstarter project to repair the marquee, its membership program, and the Smart Kids summer programming series—the move to 501(c)(3) status opens many funding venues previously closed to the Theater. McCann notes, “The ability to fundraise tax-deductible donation and grants gives the Theater a whole new set of opportunities to move into the future in really new and exciting ways.”


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