The group that organizes the popular ARTrails program underway this weekend has run out of money and has laid off its four-person staff.
The Arts Council of Sonoma County, a nonprofit founded in 1984 to represent the county's art community, was forced to take the drastic step this week after private grant funds dried up, said board chairman and author Tom Lombardo.
“Our staff members are incredible people who are dedicated to the arts,” Lombardo said. “We put off the denouement as long as we possibly could.”
Four board members have resigned and the group is now in debt, though Lombardo declined to say how much.
“We need a CPA to help us understand the books before we can comment on them with integrity,” Lombardo said.
The board recently discovered that for some time the group's executive director, Jennifer Sloan, “was not providing the Board with critical information, including financial information that could have informed decision making,” Lombardo said.
Once a full accounting is made the board will make the findings public, he said. Sloan was among those laid off. She could not be reached for comment.
John Moran, who worked for the organization for eight years focusing on information technology and performing arts, said he and others were called into the group's Rohnert Park offices and given the news Monday.
“I am, as they say in my country, gob-smacked,” said Moran, a native of England. He said he knew the organization was struggling but had no idea it was at risk of shutting down.
The other staffers laid off were ARTrails manager Vicky Kumpfer, and Courtney Arnold, who helped seek grants.
This weekend's ARTrails Open Studios program, which features more than 160 artists welcoming the public into their studios, will be unaffected by the layoffs, Lombardo said.
The council suffered from a series of financial challenges. The first was when the California Arts Council cut its funding for budget reasons about 10 years ago. That forced the group to seek private funding to stay alive. It was successful for a time.