Businesses, artists and many others from across Winnipeg are pitching in to help Art City return to the children they work with after funding delays forced the organization to cancel its inner city programs.
Art City, which has led free art workshops for kids in the inner city and beyond for 19 years, relies on a $86,000 lump sum each spring for operations.
"The payment has been wrapped up in red tape and is so late in coming that it's caused a cash flow crisis," said Art City director Eddie Ayoub, while declining to reveal the funder for fear of jeopardizing the relationship.
Art City recently launched a crowdfunding site with a goal of raising $50,000, the cost of its community programming, which they had to place on hold indefinitely for the first time last week.
"It's a mysterious hold-out, it's caused us a lot of trouble, and it's forced us to have to appeal to the city and the people — the Winnipeggers — that actually know that the work we do is good," he said.
The community steps up
That call is being answered in kind from all facets of the city.
Jeremy Regan, who owns Hunter & Gunn Barber Shop just down Broadway from Art City, is donating all of his tips this week to them.
"Art City, as far as this neighbourhood goes, does a lot of good things for disenfranchised youth," he said.
"There is some problems as far as socio-economic things and Art City is really helping with that. They're a big part of the fabric of this street."
Staff at Clementine Cafe have Art City in their thoughts too: a dollar from every bacon benedict, the restaurant's top selling item, will go to them, until further notice.
"It's a very good organization to support and they do a lot of great work in the community," said server Megan Elizabeth Diamond.
Local photographer Adam Kelly says it's programs like Art City that helped him follow his passion and succeed as an adult. He's donating the proceeds of 40 $30 prints — that he has posted on his Instagram page — to the organization
"Those programs were super beneficial to me growing up," he said. Kelly has also had the opportunity to work with Art City to co-lead a photography workshop.
"They're doing things with compassion for these children and the community they're working with."
Grateful for the help
Ayoub says the generosity he and the Art City staff have seen, given their predicament, has been "amazing".
"It's very validating, I would say, it makes our hearts want to explode with gratitude," he said.
He added the Good Will Social Club, Tiny Feast, and a comedy show from Friday have all helped them out financially. The crowdfunding site has made over half of its goal already, with donations from nearly 300 people.
But for five months, Ayoub said, Art City had been "suffering in silence", refraining from buying supplies, cancelling a Halloween event and doing programs in the studio instead of in the community that didn't cost much money for as long as they could. Eventually, they hit this month's "crunch period" and the tough decision to stop the programs they didn't have money for.
"Basically we had to go and tell all the children at all these sites where we've been working for years, that this is our last week, next week we're not going to be here, and we're not entirely sure when we're going to be able to come back," said Ayoub.
But that betrayed the program's focus, he said, which strives to provide consistency and build relationships with children who have a lot of uncertainty in their lives.
"[It] was really gut-wrenching for our staff. It was emotional and really tough for everyone involved."
If they meet their goal on the crowdfunding site, Ayoub said Art City will be able to resume their outreach programming to those children in the inner city and the other neighbourhoods they serve.
He said if the funding does end up coming through, it will go to more programming down the road. He hopes the lag period is short, and forgotten quickly by the young artists.
"It's just wrong to take from kids who don't have a lot to begin with."