• WEATHER ALERT Winter Weather Advisory

Arts Center employees working without pay

November 19, 2008 3:00:55 PM PST
Thousands of Chicagoans are facing layoffs, and when they lose their jobs, most will never see their employers again.However, some people laid off by the Beverly Arts Center recently decided they would work for free.

Everyone is looking for ways to cut back these days, even the Beverly Arts Center, which is located on the South Side. Increasing interest rates on bond payments have forced the center to make some difficult decisions, including firing 10 employees in order to save thousands of dollars in payroll and to make its monthly debt payment.

The employees were fired on October 8, 2008 and decided to stay on and do their jobs without pay.

"I got a phone call saying, 'We cannot afford to pay you.' I said, 'Not a problem. I am still coming in," said Mary Ann Corrigan.

Corrigan works the front desk and box office at the center. She says she will stay on as a volunteer because she believes it is an important theatrical and artistic institution on the South Side.

"It's a jewel in the neighborhood and this whole area in the neighborhood of Beverly has like 'millions' of volunteers everywhere. It's something the neighborhood is built on," she said.

The Beverly Arts Center has more than 350 live performances annually and a strong children's theater program.

Graphic designer Laura Kleinhenz created all of the posters, fliers and brochures for the center. She says the Beverly Arts Center is like family, and she cannot just walk away because they need her.

"It knocks you down. I didn't want to just leave because I know how important my job is, and if I'm not here a lot of things are not going to get done," Kleinhenz said. "It's a unique place. There's nowhere else like it. Sure, I could go to any kind of job, I'm sure, but I'm not going to find a job like this."

Despite being let go from their jobs, the dedicated employees show up daily. Single mom Grace Kuikman, the center's director of communications, says she is looking for other work on the side to help make ends meet, but she will stay as long as she can.

"I immediately said I would stay on for a while and do what needs to be done," said Kuikman.

"I don't note of very many facilities or employers who have that type of loyalty that we have here," said Executive Director of the Beverly Arts Center Mike Nix.

Since the employees were let go, evening meetings and grass-roots efforts have been under way to raise raising money in hopes of bringing back them back.

"I think it would be practically impossible without their help," said Nix.

The employees, now volunteers, of the Beverly Arts Center say it is a jewel of an institution on the South Side. They also says it is important to the community, and they want it to survive and flourish.

Executive Director Nix hopes that once the bond payments come down, he will be able to re- hire the former employees.


Load Comments