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Friday, December 19, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 26.0° F  Overcast
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No pay, no play
Madison Center for Creative and Cultural Arts loses its lease
Taylor fell behind on rent.
Taylor fell behind on rent.

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

The Madison Center for Creative and Cultural Arts, 306 W. Dayton St., 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 says that the center's finances are even more dire than the managers admit. Rather than being $14,000 in arrears on rent, he says MCCCA was nearly $26,000 behind. He also disputes the assertion that he was trying to raise the monthly rent from $2,500 to $3,675.

"The rent in the lease already calls for $3,675 a month," Hutchinson says. "We allowed them to pay a partial rent of $2,500, but they didn't always pay that, and there were two months when they paid nothing at all."

Hutchinson says that Taylor and Fox didn't display good business sense. "They just weren't very business savvy. They were renting the space for maybe $10 an hour, and it was probably costing them $25 an hour to keep the doors open."

He adds, "They're into me for more than $25,000, and I just couldn't carry them anymore."

Hutchinson hopes to rent the building as a performance space, or for office or retail if he can't find a new arts tenant.

Numerous dance groups and other small arts operations use the Madison Center for Creative and Cultural Arts 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. "MCCCA was a truly community-based organization that helped connect arts to people."

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 - will continue, and Freedom Fest 2008 will be held at the Overture Center on Feb. 22.

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