For seven full months, The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College, like many other venues across the nation, sat empty, mandated to close by state order in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, while the popular home to theatrical shows, trade shows, meetings, conferences, festivals, private functions, major dinners and beyond has been allowed to reopen, it has been forced to do so at a drastically diminished capacity, with many functions still dramatically curtailed.
The year 2020 has indeed been a landmark to date, pivotal in the lifespan of the convention center and Mainstage theater.
Now, however, as The Mendel Center plans for a future when it can open its doors wide and welcome the community back, it is launching the Creating Bridges Challenge Campaign. Thanks to a $50,000 challenge matching grant from The Frederick S. Upton Foundation, contributions to The Mendel Center can have double the impact as they look to bridge the financial gap created by the pandemic.
Mendel Center Executive Director Mike Nadolski tells us, “To keep The Mendel Center strong during this time when our stages are quiet and our gathering spaces are mostly empty, support is needed from individuals and organizations to help sustain operations. With this support, we can emerge stronger than ever to serve our communities.”
Since March, more than 125 events scheduled at the venue have been cancelled. Theose range from weddings, trade shows, and meetings to Speaker Series events, concerts, and community gatherings. That means that essential operating revenue has been and continues to be lost. To partially offset those effects, The Mendel Center has taken fiscally responsible steps including staff furloughs and reductions in hours, the elimination of a full-time staff position, and budget cuts in excess of 50-percent.
But that doesn’t mean The Mendel Center has retreated.
Nadolski says the center has used this challenging time to reinvent itself through new ways that allow the community to connect through virtual and socially distanced avenues. Those include such things as:
- Remotely Interested, an online performance series
- Drive-in Live! concerts
- Live stream, micro, and outdoor weddings
- Mendel Center Connections, a video series of interviews with various community partners and performing artists.
The Mendel Center staff is also conducting 100 Conversations, a series of meetings with area organizations and individuals to discover how The Mendel Center can better serve all populations within the Southwestern Michigan community.
Nadolski points out that, “While online events can’t replace the excitement and fulfillment of being here in person, these experiences give people something hopeful and productive on which to focus. In this way The Mendel Center can continue its role as a leader in advancing our communities and as a center for creative expression and personal growth.”
Nadolski and The Mendel Center staff eagerly await a time when patrons and guests can return for activities at full capacity. The Creating Bridges Challenge Campaign will help make that possible. Campaign support will allow The Mendel Center to cover critical operational expenses including equipment maintenance, licensing, and retention of staff who are developing virtual opportunities now, and who will prepare for in-person programming when allowed.
To date, The Mendel Center has raised $14,500, which with the match from The Frederick S. Upton Foundation challenge grant, brings the total to $29,000 toward a $150,000 goal.
Doug Schaffer, Executive Director of the Lake Michigan College Foundation, says, “We are incredibly appreciative for The Frederick S. Upton Foundation standing with The Mendel Center during this challenging time,” and adds, “Their generosity and commitment to this important regional resource means that the future beyond the pandemic is bright for performing arts and community collaboration.”
Those wishing to learn more or to contribute to the Creating Bridges Campaign can do so online at this link: https://www.themendelcenter.com/support/contribute/ You can also reach out by phone at 269-927-8700, or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.