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UPDATED: Boocoo Cultural Center May Close

Financial woes might force the community art center and coffeehouse to shut its doors.

[Updated]

The Boocoo Cultural Center and Café might soon close due to financial burdens and is calling on the Evanston community for help.

Located at the intersection of Church Street and Dodge Avenue, across the street from Evanston Township High School, Boocoo is a combination coffeehouse, eatery, recording studio, meeting space, live-performance stage, garden, art gallery and music school that opened in July 2007 and lists its mission as “[providing] a safe and nurturing environment in which individuals can explore and express their creative passions.”

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Jason Vanhoose, director at Boocoo, said there were several contributing factors to the center’s current fiscal problems.

“There has always been a certain amount of looming financial trouble,” Vanhoose said, “but a few things happened in succession over the last few months that kind of took the wind out of our sails. Boocoo is financed through a charitable trust [created by Evanston nonprofit Enterprise Development Foundation] that has run dry. The other thing was that we received a lot of our funding by renting out some of our space, and the organization renting our space…has had cash flow problems, as well. Plus the summer is just really slow around here anyway.”

Money has been so scarce, said Boocoo administrator Alicia Hempfling, that some employees have opted to forfeit their paychecks until the situation improves.

“For several months now, more or less whatever we take in goes directly back into the business, and sometimes there isn’t quite enough for that,” Hempfling said. “We’re trying to keep the programs. A couple of us have decided to forgo our paychecks for a while until we can get back up on our feet. But we want to make sure our instructors are paid.”

Hempfling said that even the revenue generated from the music classes has dried up some, as Evanston families have tightened their budgets amid their own economic woes.

Now, with their trust funding gone, Boocoo is looking to the Evanston community to help subsidize their operations with charitable donations.

On Oct. 2, Boocoo will open its doors from 2 to 8 p.m. for a fundraising event that reportedly will include an address from Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, an open forum to discuss the role of Boocoo in the surrounding community and a live Jazz band. In a mass email sent out last Thursday, the community center asked residents for monetary donations, but said contributions of time, ideas and event equipment would be welcome, as well.

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th Ward) said that Boocoo has been a manifestation of the ward’s effort to rebuild itself as a viable commercial district, acting as an entryway to downtown Evanston.

“[Boocoo] was the first visible thing that was done in terms of rebuilding and trying to get something that looked alive in the community,” Holmes said. “The whole Church and Dodge area, we’ve been trying to renovate. The other thing about Boocoo that was so important was the step in using some of the young people who had not such good experiences and were doing some not so nice things to be a part of building that.”

Boocoo subcontracts out both its café work and musical instruction.

John Noyes September 12, 2011 at 08:31 PM
I'm really sad to hear this about Boocoo. I used to take drum lessons over there and was so encouraged every week to see the ETHS students using it as a hang out and being able to express themselves creatively. I have always thought that the premise behind Boocoo was so great for the community and a welcome safe haven in that neighborhood. Sad to see it go....

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