Despite a timing coincidence, the move from the Westside Cultural Arts Center, where they previously rehearsed and taught, to TULA is unrelated to the abrupt split between Terminus and the South Fulton Institute for Art, Culture & the Environment, formerly Serenbe, at the latter Summer Institute for Art, Culture & Environment. (The company’s upcoming appearances in the Serenbe community will be produced by a separate entity, Art Farm at Serenbe.)
According to the Welkers, the Westside Cultural Arts Center, which is primarily a performance venue, was struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic and could no longer afford to offer subsidized studio and performance space to Terminus.
In August last year, for example, John received a letter from Westside giving the company six months to move. “It was an existential crisis upon an existential crisis, upon an existential crisis,” he said. “With the separation from the South Fulton Institute, we lost our legal status and two weeks later our home.”
Terminus immediately formed a site selection committee made up of company members, the board of directors and other stakeholders. Throughout the search process, the needs of the company and those of the school were inextricably intertwined. As Christine said, “The school is what makes the company successful. Not only are you bringing up the next generation of dancers here, you are also educating children who could become teachers or choreographers or lifelong dance lovers who support and fund the arts.”
While financial constraints could have pushed them to the outer fringes of the suburbs or suburbs, John and the other founding members were determined to keep Terminus in a central Atlanta location. “Knowing what the ‘Terminus’ in our name means and symbolizes, we had to live it,” he said.
The “golden ticket” moment came after a performance of “Roam” at Wildflower Meadow in Serenbe last October, when Lee Harper, founding director of Lee Harper and Dancers, suggested John check out TULA, also home to Harper’s company and school .
She introduced him to the caretaker, who showed him around. TULA “is immediately at the top of my list,” John said. Christine and other members of the site committee reacted similarly. “The conversation almost immediately turned from ‘Where are we going?’ to ‘How do we get in here?'” she said.
Everyone knew that expanding to justify and afford a physical home more than four times the square footage they occupied in Westside would require an extensive corporate, school and community effort, as well as a capital campaign .
Luckily for Terminus, key partners have “reinforced tremendously,” John said, with mostly individual donors raising about 60% of their financial goal. Going forward, the Terminus team hopes to raise additional funds from Atlanta dance funders, government agencies and charities.
Several organizations have helped Terminus get through this difficult year. Georgia Tech Arts, Alliance Theater and Kennesaw State University ensured the company performed and created during its 2021-22 season.
Art Farm in Serenbe presents “Roam” in October. In these performances, four protégés of the company could be seen in the ten-strong cast. All four were students of Terminus’ professional training program, just one example of how the school prepares young dancers for professional careers.
Westside also worked with them, providing important extra weeks to make up for inevitable construction delays at the new site.
The Terminus School of Modern Ballet finished the 2021-22 season at TULA but had to move out again to allow construction to be completed. Work was due to be completed in early June, but supply chain delays and labor shortages have pushed the schedule back to August at the earliest.
With the Terminus team left without a studio or venue for their three week Summer Intensive beginning June 6th, Moving In the Spirit stepped in to share their beautiful new facilities in Edgewood. “They were great,” Christine said.
Construction delays aren’t the only challenges the move brings. Parents and students have had mixed reactions. Some have a shorter commute, others a longer one, and John acknowledged that Buckhead traffic can be a headache.
Nonetheless, Christine emphasized that a larger facility means the school can expand its dance education program. “The location is a total game changer in terms of how many students we can reach,” she said.
The Welkers emphasized the role dance can play as an introduction to other performing and visual arts at TULA. They anticipate that students will benefit from seeing the creative process across a range of artistic disciplines.
School classes, student and corporate performances will potentially bring new visitors down to MOCA GA and increase the visibility of other performers at the center. John is already exploring opportunities for joint events and collaborations.
The company is planning an open house when the renovations are complete. For John, the event will celebrate “a point of artistic and financial maturity” for the school and business, with the location providing solid physical evidence of that growth: “It feels like this is phase two of our founding.”
MEET OUR PARTNER
ArtATL (www.artsatl.org), is a nonprofit organization that plays a critical role in educating and informing audiences about the arts and culture of Metro Atlanta. Founded in 2009, ArtsATL’s mission is to help build a sustainable arts community that contributes to the city’s economic and cultural health.
If you have any questions about this or any other partnership, please contact Senior Manager of Partnerships Nicole Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.