Downtown Waco artspace Cultivate 7twelve will host a burst of arts activities later this month with a more specific purpose than many of the exhibits, workshops, concerts and other activities the space usually hosts: raising money to pay its property taxes.
The multipurpose, for-profit arts location at 712 Austin Avenue will hold Cultivate Days from June 27-30 with art classes, yoga and dance classes, meals, live music, and sales to help the facility defray a tax bill that owner Rebekah Hagman said caught her and husband Jeremy by surprise.
Hagman said the downtown property needs $18,000 by Sept. 1 and another $12,000 by year’s end to pay off past taxes and give the facility some breathing room heading into 2020. McLennan County Tax Office records show a 2018 tax bill of $15,707.06 for the property, which has an assessed value of $539,150. A preliminary appraisal for 2019 shows a tax bill of $17,960 on an assessed value of $616,490.
Since its opening in 2017, Cultivate 7twelve has served as a multipurpose, for-profit arts facility, with retail and exhibit space downstairs and offices and artist lofts on its second floor.
While its operation has required shifting and adjusting to match revenue streams, Hagman said it’s been important to run as a for-profit venue rather than nonprofit. A for-profit venture can be more nimble and flexible than a board-managed nonprofit and it also helps the professional artists it represents. “I feel really strongly that operating as a nonprofit is too cumbersome,” she said. “We wanted to be able to iterate and grow in the arts and culture scene in the city . . . for an artist to show work, a for-profit space is incredibly powerful.”
That said, increases in the property’s valuation and subsequent taxes had surpassed their estimates, leaving the facility in a financial hole that needed filling faster than its gradual fiscal improvement would allow, she said.
To start that work, four days of events with paid admission — Cultivate Days — will be held June 27-30 at the downtown art space. The emphasis will include live music, yoga, art classes, meals and an art sale with works by artists Greg Lewallen, Will Suarez, Brad Settles and Lauren Smith.
Call for support
Waco artists and performers have sounded a call for support on social media. Creative Waco director Fiona Bond, whose organizational office is located on Cultivate 7twelve’s second floor, praised the couple for their work to nurture Waco’s arts community and said ways to help small for-profit arts organizations are being explored.
“It’s frustrating that what would otherwise be a successful business is essentially being penalized for being generous to the nonprofit organizations and activities that it supports . . . In the longer term, I hope we can find a structural answer to relieve the property tax burden or open up dedicated revenue for this kind of organization, which is essentially a social enterprise rather than a profit driven business,” she said in a statement.
“In the short term, it is my hope that our community will step up and show Rebekah and Jeremy Hagman some of the love and generosity that they have shown us. We are based in the building, so I get to see firsthand how much time and love they pour into every event, exhibition and relationship. It’s a fabulous space and a viable business if we can help them create a community chest that allows them to cultivate new creative initiatives without taking a personal financial hit.”
Hagman was guardedly optimistic that community support would help Cultivate 7twelve over the next few months, allowing it to reach a sustainable operation. “We’re so close to making it, but this bill is so crushing,” she said.