With construction of its new art supply store nearly complete, members of The Visual Arts Center in Punta Gorda have high hopes for the future of the museum and its variety of programs.

Since joining the Margin & Mission Ignition last August, the Charlotte County Art Guild, which operates as VAC, has gone from “just keeping the lights on” to building the new supply store, as well as making plans for a new snack bar and rental lockers for members to store supplies between classes.

These entrepreneurial actions for the nonprofit couldn’t be done without the help of The Patterson Foundation and its Ignition program.

“We’ve raised $62,000 from the generosity of Visual Arts Center donor investors and $50,000 from the Patterson Foundation for a total of $112,000,” said Janet Watermeier, VAC executive director.

“We have $13,000 to go.”

The Patterson Foundation created the Ignition program five years ago to help nonprofits in Southwest Florida learn ways to create “earned-income strategies,” giving them the opportunity to build an entrepreneurial aspect to their organization to generate income and, in turn, strengthen the impact of their cause.

“Margin & Mission Ignition has served as a catalyst for nonprofits developing alternate revenue streams for greater thrivability,” said Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation. “With this match, The Patterson Foundation affirmed their business-planning, while sparking investor interest to propel them forward and turn these mission-aligned aspirations into reality.”

In the art supply store, VAC offers guests and students watercolor, acrylic and oil paints and brushes, as well as a selection of canvases and paper. They also sell VAC logo items such as cups, insulated mugs, umbrellas and tote bags.

“We are adding more items every day,” Watermeier said. “We hope to have the majority of our displays and inventory in place by April 15. We are open (now) and selling the items we have. They seem to be very welcomed by our customers.”

In order to accommodate the new store, parts of VAC had to be reconfigured. The funds they have raised so far contributed to those efforts.

“We moved our administrative offices across the hall to where the library was, moved the library to a portion of a classroom off the Main Gallery, and opened the wall between our old administrative offices and our gift shop to create the Art & Supply Store space,” Watermeier said. “To replace the classroom, we created a temporary classroom at the end of Goff Gallery.”

In total, the Patterson Foundation has matched more than $190,000 in contributions toward the entrepreneurial efforts of the five regional nonprofits participating in Ignition program.

Beyond the Spectrum, the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary and UnidosNow, all of Sarasota, as well as the Manatee County Habitat for Humanity were also named to the program.

“This has been a wonderful program for VAC,” Watermeier said. “The Patterson Foundation is in the process of selecting their next set of nonprofit organizations for this year’s initiative. We highly encourage Charlotte County nonprofits that want to grow their earned income to participate in their upcoming workshops, which is the first phase of the selection process.”

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