Gwinnett's Hudgens Arts Center faces emergency cash shortfall

Stan Hall's e-mail notes, "The biggest need the Hudgens faces today is an immediate influx of cash to sustain the organization at its present level while the acquisition of long-term funding can be achieved."

The letter does not specify what led to the shortfall at the nonprofit, saying obliquely, "Under normal circumstances, the Hudgens would be in great shape ... but these aren't normal times."

The Hudgens Center (formerly the Gwinnett Arts Council) dates to 1981. It moved into a newly constructed facility in 1993, a 14,000-square-foot building adjoined by the 28,000-square-foot Al Weeks Sculpture Garden. Ten years ago, 20,000 square feet of galleries, classrooms and performance space were added.

The community arts center, located at of 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Building 300, in Duluth, offers a multitude of classes for adults and children. The Hudgens also mounts four to six major visual arts exhibitions yearly that draw metro Atlantans from beyond Gwinnett's county lines. Its next show, opening Oct. 12, is "Works by John Lawrence," by the noted Georgia photographer and director of the Lamar Dodd Art Center at LaGrange College.

This year, the center won attention for launching the $50,000 Hudgens Prize, to be awarded to a single Georgia visual artist, with the winner from among five recently announced finalists to be named on Nov. 30.

Hall's letter does not suggest that the Hudgens will have to close its doors, but it solicits help to weather a cash shortfall it terms as "temporary."

"Solicitations to major donors and foundations have been made but may be some time in coming," Hall writes.

The economic downturn has been difficult for metro Atlanta arts groups of all sizes, with organizations including the Atlanta Opera cutting performances to cut costs and even Midtown's Woodruff Arts Center (parent organization of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, High Museum of Art, Alliance Theatre and Young Audiences) experiencing a rare decline in annual corporate giving last year.

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