August 11, 2021 7:55 pm

Earlier this week (8/10), our City Commission voted to remove us – Old School Square Center for The Arts, Inc.- from the buildings by terminating our lease after 30 years. They did this based on inaccurate and outdated information that was presented at the hearing. The updated information, which includes a clean and nearly perfect audit, demonstrates the final piece of compliance requested of us by the City in order for us to continue our work in upholding and enhancing the art and cultural offerings that have long established Old School Square as the heart and soul of Delray Beach. 

Prior to the meeting, at which this heavy and misguided decision vote was casted, the City’s own internal auditor stated that she had not had the opportunity to review all of the requested documentation provided to her by our team – documentation that was critical to understanding our absolute compliance and transparency – and which showcased remarkable and record-braking key performance indicators and accomplishments from this team in what has easily been the most challenging 1.5 years in our history. 

We attended the meeting prepared to make our case with hard-copy backup of all of our documentation, which we intended to pass out and speak to during public comment. However, there was no opportunity to do this, as the Commission agenda items were presented before public comment. At no time was it qualified before the vote that OSS had provided everything required in compliance with the City’s request. We feel strongly that members of the City Commission are handling this with a hidden agenda, because without much discussion the Vice-Mayor Shirley Johnson very quickly made a motion to terminate the lease agreement without cause. After some discussion from the Commissioners and no opportunity for clarification from OSS on any points they brought up, the Commission voted to terminate the lease agreement with a 3-2 vote.  (Mayor Shelly Petrolia, Vice-Mayor Shirley Johnson, and Commissioner Juli Casale.)

This not only obviously impacts the events and programming we’ve secured to-date at Old School Square – both at our arts and entertainment venues – but also impacts our ability to continue to successfully support our community as Delray Beach’s greatest economic development driver, responsible for $100M of economic activity in Delray Beach.

There has never been a time in the history of Old School Square where we have met and surpassed growth and development goals as there has been under the current leadership. We were one of the first entertainment venues in the U.S. to create a safe and innovative environment for live performances, earning us national recognition and garnering the interest of global performers like Jimmy Buffett, among many others. 

In the most difficult time in history for live entertainment, we have:

  • booked twice as many shows as in previous years Palm Beach ArtsPaper: Suddenly, Old School Square Becomes Major Concert Venue
  • Show attendance is already up 1600%, ticket sales are up 134% and sponsorship is up 446% over last year and we are only in our third quarter of the year.
  • Created a virtual music series that has been viewed by millions.
  • Continued to offer art classes and have grown both our class offerings and student participation exponentially in the past year.
  • Launched a childhood literacy program that has been provided to more than 600 libraries nationwide and was also provided free to all Delray Beach Schools.
  • Created a virtual summer children’s camp with South Florida Children’s Theater.
  • Reopened the Cornell Art Museum, launching virtual tours and art talks, showcasing the work of celebrated emerging artists and photographers, and celebrated diversity through the arts.
  • When the City was unable to hold the holiday village due to the pandemic, our Cornell Art Museum Director curated a contemporary holiday art exhibition that included work from artists from Louisiana, Florida, New York, and Santa Fe on an almost non-existent budget. We also partnered with the Boca Ballet Theatre to display ballet costumes from fairy tales.

We accomplished all of this, despite the fact that we lost our CEO and had to furlough more than 85% of our staff (leaving us with just 8 staff since COVID hit), and despite that fact that we were in the midst of a global pandemic and conducting business in one of the hardest hit industries. Our team has been incredibly successful in cultivating, growing and expanding our arts, cultural, and educational programs and events in some of the worst conditions possible

This WPTV report, which surfaced after the 8/10 Commission vote, will provide additional context on this ongoing issue: Nonprofit ‘blindsided’ after Delray Beach terminates Old School Square lease agreement This is why we now ask you, our community members, stakeholders, fans and friends, to take action to help force the City to reconsider this decision. We have identified several ways in which you can show your support and advocacy for Old School Square. Please consider taking a moment to do one of the following:

  • SIGN this petition demonstrating your support for Old School Square and our ability to continue on as the trustees of its critical mission:

  • CALL your City Commissioners to let them know that you desire to continue to see Old School Square THRIVE under the leadership that not only brought the campus to life, but that continues to carry out the vision originally set forth by its founder, Frances Bourque. Please call:

    Mayor Shelly Petrolia, 561-703-3191
    Vice-Mayor Shirley Johnson,
    Commissioner Ryan Boylston,
    Commissioner Juli Casale,

    Delores Rangel, (561) 243-7010

We cannot let this city destroy the soul of our community. It is time for us to stand together to uphold the vision, mission, and enduring purpose of Old School Square. With out YOU, there is no US!

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