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Artists fear loss of studio, classes as city budget cutbacks loom

By Staff | Jul 11, 2009

Mary Dale Sclafani was fusing glass at the Cape Coral Arts Studio on Friday afternoon, a craft she picked up while being a student at the Cape landmark over the past five years.
Like most who utilize the art studio’s classes and facilities, Sclafini hopes they don’t close the studio’s doors due to budget cuts. The studio has been open since 1982.
“I hope they don’t cut anything,” she said. “You’re going to lose something if they shut the studio down. This is a well-equipped facility. There’s a lot going on here. It’s our home.”
Closing the arts studio is, at this point, a worst-case-scenario for the Cape city council, which is trying to deal with budgetary woes.
Fire and police services are also being eyed for reduction, and the studio is by no means the only division of the parks and recreation department facing possible cuts; the Tony Rotino Senior Center, the Aquatics Division, and Mini Bus Transportation are but a few of the services that could be shut down if city council chooses to do so.
There are other options, which include scaling back services at the arts studio, and less exposure for the programs they offer.
But for people who use the studio on a year round basis, the mere prospect of shutting its doors is a heavy though to bear.
“If the artists don’t have this place, where do they have to go?” asked Lois Johnston, who’s used the studio for seven years. “And if they cut back services, people would be turned away.”
Proponents of the art studio have banded together to form a loose sort of “save our studio” movement, making their presence known at city council meetings.
Their efforts caught the attention of Councilmember Dolores Bertolini, who said many of the studio supporters have phoned her to voice their displeasure.
“I love the arts and the people who are there and it would be a great disservice if it did close,” Bertolini said. “So many things we took so long to build … it would be a crime to shut down culture. We have the best parks and recreation department in Lee County.”
Former arts studio manager Alicia Schmidt might have the best perspective of the studio’s importance to the community.
Having lived in the Cape since 1966, Schmidt has watched as the arts community developed over the years.
She used the arts studio as a place to display her work long before she became manager.
Following her recent retirement from 17 years working at the studio, she now acts as a student herself, taking advantage of the classes offered.
“Its been part of my life as an artist,” she said. “I’ve seen the influence the facility has had on people’s lives, young and old … I’d hate to see a permanent solution to something’s that’s temporary. The economy will come back.”