MORGAN PARK — The Beverly Arts Center has reduced the number of instructors by more than half and will eliminate its fitness classes beginning this fall.
The move occurred late last month as instructors for the arts center at 2407 W. 111th St. in Morgan Park were notified via email.
"What we wanted to do in building up the school and take our the school to a new level was to create a more definitive faculty," said Shellee Frazee, the artistic director of Beverly Arts Center.
Frazee said that instructors hired by the Beverly Arts Center are paid per class. Reducing the number of teachers from about 45 to 20 will increase the workload of the remaining teachers — a move applauded by those who will stay.
"It was hard to sort through this and make these decisions," Frazee said.
The consolidation is expected to have a minimal impact on the number of classes offered at the center. In fact, the goal of paring down the staff is to allow the remaining instructors focus on providing more classes specific to the neighborhood, whereas the previous setup often had them bouncing between several jobs, Frazee said.
Thus, the intention is to create a more dedicated staff versus the piecemeal approach both Frazee and executive director Heather Ireland Robinson attributed to the previous financial struggles of the center. In those days, the arts center was quick to hire any instructor to teach any class that would supply an audience in the hopes of keeping the facility afloat.
"Everything was very reactionary when the financial crisis happened," Robinson said Tuesday.
One casualty from the move will be the fitness classes offered through the center. Both Robinson and Frazee said that the arts center was struggling to compete with other gyms, yoga studios and Pilates classes offered nearby.
Rather than continue the fight, Robinson said the decision was made to drop fitness courses to focus on arts instruction and live performances.
"This space is designed to be an art center, and we are very good at training artists," Robinson said.
Both she and Frazee defended the move to inform the instructors of the new direction via email. They said all of the instructors are hired on an seasonal basis and being rehired is typically not an expectation. Thus, the email notice seemed sufficient.
"It's standard practice," Robinson said.
Robinson was hired in February 2014. She hired Frazee, a longtime instructor and coordinator of the dance and theater programs, to serve in her current position in April 2014.
The pair said their decision to reduce the staff comes as a result of their observations after nearly 1½ years on the job. The new schedule will begin on Sept. 8.
Area residents will be able to tour the center, meet with instructors and ask questions about the upcoming schedule at an open house from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Aug. 15. Anyone signing up for classes that day then will receive a 10 percent discount.
Center members will receive an additional 10 percent during the open house. Members will also be able to sign up and receive the double discount one day in advance.
Both Frazee and Robinson are excited about the upcoming schedule as well as the overall direction of the center. They've already surveyed members about what they like and dislike.
And a consultant has been hired to survey other neighborhood residents in the coming months to find out what they are looking for from the neighborhood center.
"What we are doing is refining our faculty," Frazee said.
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