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Sunday, January 25, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 21.0° F  Partly Cloudy
The Daily
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Madison Center for Creative and Cultural Arts to close its doors

One of Madison's major grassroots arts venues is strapped for rent money and will close its doors by Sept. 10.

The Madison Center for Creative and Cultural Arts, located at 306 W. Dayton St. behind the Overture Center for the Arts, owes its landlord $14,000 and can't afford an impending rent hike from $2,500 to nearly $3,700 a month, according to MCCCA's managers.

"Essentially, we lost our lease and our landlord is not interested in renewing it," says project manager Susan Fox. "It's been a wonderful three-and-a-half years."

"We simply can't afford to pay it," adds jazzman Hanah Jon Taylor, the center's director and guiding light. "I'm a poor musician, and our tenants couldn't afford to perform here if their costs were higher."

Taylor's hope was to put "a real dent" in the overdue rent over the next year, he says, "but we can't pay it all at once."

Landlord John Hutchinson couldn't be reached for comment.

Taylor notes that the center had paid for nearly $18,000 in tenant improvements to the space, including the installation a new wood floor.

Numerous dance groups and other small arts operations use the center for their classes and rehearsals, including the Madison Tango Society, the Madison Jazz Orchestra, Capoeira Angola, Wednesday Night Salsa with Cawi Buie and Brazilian Dance.

The impending closing poses "huge ramifications for the arts and arts education in our region," Anne Katz, the executive director of the advocacy group Arts Wisconsin, said in an email to Isthmus. "This is very much an issue for the entire community."

The shutdown comes at a particularly inopportune moment, Taylor says. "We're just on the precipice of starting this great partnership with [Tom] Carto of the Overture Center to work as an incubator space for the arts."

He adds that the center's outreach programs-music classes in the schools and the traveling stage called the "culture coach" -- would continue despite the closing of the facility.

Taylor, who is African American, is upset at what the center's closing means for the downtown business community.

"I hate to play this card, but it has to be said: Other than the shoeshine man and a couple of successful lawyers I'm the only brother with a business downtown."

Katz in her message to Isthmus hit another note. "MCCCA was a truly community-based organization that helped connect arts to people," she said. "We may have a lot of arts 'stuff' going on in Madison, if we don't pay attention and invest in our assets they will disappear."

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