LINCOLN SQUARE — More than 100 letters from people who want the Old Town School of Folk’s leadership to rethink selling its 909 W. Armitage Ave. building will be dropped off at the school Thursday.
Michelle Stenzel, a member of the Save The Old Town School group, says the letter campaign is the latest step in trying convince the school’s board of directors to change their mind about the sale of the Armitage building.
In October, Old Town’s leadership surprised the school’s community by saying the old Aldine Hall in Lincoln Park, which has been used by the school for 50 years, was going to be sold. The school’s main location is now in Lincoln Square.
When the announcement was first made Bau Graves, the school’s executive director, told Block Club the sale would help create an endowment fund that would “secure the future of the school in perpetuity.”
However, plans for the Save the Old Town group to meet with Graves on Nov. 6 to talk about alternatives were postponed due to his health. Then on Sunday, Graves notified the school he was going to take a leave of absence for medical reasons.
“Mr. Graves has extended his leave of absence to focus on his health through the end of the year. Rashida Phillips, our deputy director will step into the role of acting executive director during this period of time,” said Dave Zibell, a school spokesperson. “We will continue our day-to-day operations while Mr. Graves continues to rest and focus on his health. There is no additional information to share about the sale of 909 W. Armitage.”
Last week, Zibell said the school expects the Armitage building to be put on the market in early January 2019. He also said buyout letters sent to non-teaching school staff last week was unrelated to the planned sale.
Stenzel says she’s disappointed the school’s leadership has not yet met with the Save the Old Town group to discuss alternatives to selling the building. Especially because many of the group’s members have experience with marketing and nonprofits, which she says could help secure the school’s future without the sale of the building.
“We’ve received more than 100 letters already, and they continue to flow in steadily. The deadline for submitting letters is midnight [Tuesday],” Stenzel said. “We’re planning to give them to the board members on Thursday, as well as publish them (with identifying information removed) on our website that day.”
Excerpts from the letters that will be delivered on Thursday are below.
“We believe in the joy, magic and shared community of what The Old Town School of Folk Music represents. Do you? Because together we can find the way to financial security.” — John
“There is a lot of honor in admitting you were wrong and listening to the community that is begging you to listen. A chorus made up of thousands of community members demanding justice is about as folk as it gets. Grab some shakers and join us.” — Mary
“We are all caretakers of this beautiful and fragile treasure that our predecessors have endowed us with. Let us make sure it is around for future generations to enjoy.” — Brian
“You are the stewards of a ‘public trust’. The public needs to be heard and engaged, no matter how much less messy it would be to skip that step.” — Andrea
“The music and fellowship offered and shared in my classes, performances and concerts at the Armitage site are an irreplaceable element of my arts experience in Chicago. Place a moratorium on the decision and process and retrace your steps to the beginning and start again with us all working together to assure the future of the Old Town School’s mission.” — Jack
Supporters also called on the school’s leadership to save the Armitage building in a Save The Old Town School video below.
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