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Butte-Silver Bow Arts Foundation kicked out of Clark Chateau

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 09:38:22 AM MST
Updated On: Oct 16 2013 06:50:11 PM MDT
BUTTE, Mont. -

Butte-Silver Bow cut ties with a local arts foundation, and locked them out of the historic Clark Chateau.

Chief Executive Matt Vincent said two board members came to him in July and raised concerns about the financial stability of the Butte-Silver Bow Arts Foundation.

The city-county was giving the organization $35,000 a year.

In August, leaders asked for the organization's financial records.

Arts Foundation Executive Director Gretchen Miller said they were working to comply with the request, when on Tuesday the city-county terminated the lease and closed up the Chateau.

Miller said the termination of their lease agreement wasn't something she saw coming.

"We were working to meet the requirements of what Matt Vincent wanted us to do," she said.

She said on Tuesday night, after she heard the news, she went to the Chateau to collect her things to find it locked and with police waiting to escort her away.

The doors of the Clark Chateau are all locked. No one can get in, including the members of the Butte Arts Foundation.

"The Arts Foundation has been here for 36 years and helped buy the Chateau in the first place," she explained.

But Chief Executive Matt Vincent said the decision to evict them comes after months of attempts to work with the organization.

"They weren't simply meeting the obligations of financial or organizational stability for us to be able to continue this agreement unless they did some significant suring-up in some specific areas," Vincent explained.

Miller said she's been working hard to keep everything afloat.

The Arts Foundation also runs the Venus Rising, a nonprofit coffee shop whose profits go back into the organization. But because of high overhead costs, Venus Rising is closing its doors this Friday.

Miller said losing the coffee shop is hard enough.

"The Chateau means everything to me," she said. "I've been giving everything I can give to keeping the Chateau going. I work endless hours without being paid with the assumption I will get paid when we get the money."

But Matt Vincent said supporting the foundation is something Butte-Silver Bow can no longer afford.

"The Arts Foundation is a $35,000 a year agreement with very little details as far as where that money is to be spent," Vincent explained.

Both Vincent and Miller are unsure of the fate of the Clark Chateau, but both acknowledge its historical and cultural importance to Butte.

"The Chateau is one of the most important historic icons in the city, and now who knows what's in store for it," Miller said.

We also spoke to Frank Ponikvar, one of the foundation's board Presidents who resigned in July.

He said he saw this coming with the foundation, disagreed with some of the their decisions, and no longer wanted to be a part of it.

He stressed that although the Arts Foundation is struggling, art in Butte is thriving. and Butte is poised to become an important art center of Montana.