Sawtooth Center plans move

By Laura Moretz

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Sawtooth Center for Visual Art is at a turning point in its 60-year history.

In June, just before Kim Wilson left after 18 months as executive director to move to Arkansas with her husband, the board of directors voted to pursue a new home in June.

It aims to buy the Hillcrest Furniture showroom at 505 N. Liberty St., a block away from Winston-Salem’s new arts district on Trade Street.

If the deal closes, it will be the first time the arts agency owns its home.

The move is part of a plan to reinvigorate the Sawtooth center.

“One of the things that’s concerning me, as I come in the door, is someone said to me, ‘So, the Sawtooth is closing,’ ” says Bonnie Poindexter, interim director.

“It’s alive and well and has a vital mission,” she says. “The goal will be to clearly become a premier visual arts school, certainly in the state of North Carolina.”

Sawtooth’s abandoned plan to acquire the Delco building, adjacent to its present home on South Marshall Street, may have contributed to the public perception that Sawtooth has closed.

Since 1982, Sawtooth has rented 15,000 square feet in a former textile mill on South Marshall Street.

“The building is getting old,” says Poindexter. “Time’s change, and if you don’t change with the times, guess what? You get left behind.”

Over the past 10 years, Trade Street has become Winston-Salem’s hot spot for the arts.

Sawtooth’s board would raise $2 million to pay for the 40,000-square-foot Hillcrest building, Poindexter says.

“We hope to rent part of it to defray the cost to us,” she says. “We don’t have a clue who the tenant might be.”

Since she left the Greater Triad division of the March of Dimes in 2002, Poindexter has held several interim positions, including interim director of the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County in 2004.

“Next to healthy babies, the arts are my all-time favorite nonprofits in the world,” she says.

During a 23-year tenure at the March of Dimes, Poindexter led the chapter from deficit spending to an annual budget of $1 million.

Sawtooth needs some solid financial planning to undergird its mission,” she says.

“I think it’s been a while since there’s been a strategic look at how to have a community arts center that remains financially viable,” she says.

“The board has begun the process of putting together a business plan which will enable us to see precisely which classes pay for themselves and which need some bumping up,” she says. “In terms of paying the bills, there isn’t a difference between nonprofit and for profit. We have to have the revenue to cover expenses.”

Her top goal is to help Sawtooth find and hire a permanent director. “What I do sometimes is work myself out of a job,” she says.

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