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March 20, 2018

Group Organized to Save Memphis College of Art from Closure

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE—A group of alumni, administrators, and stakeholders has organized to save Memphis College of Art from closing in May 2020, Tom Bailey reports for Commercial Appeal. In October 2017, the school’s board of trustees voted to cease operations in light of declining enrollment and a $7 million debt tied to the school’s real estate holdings but has not yet announced specific plans for shutting down. MCA alumnae Tootsie Bell formed the group Save MCA shortly thereafter and launched an online petition that has garnered more than three thousand signatures.

Save MCA’s board, which includes several Memphis entrepreneurs, has suggested either selling all the school’s real estate and retaining 145 current students at the school’s landmark Rust Hall or reforming the school at another Memphis location. MCA expects to enroll just seventy students by May 2019, from the current 450.

“We would expand on the things that worked and get rid of the things that didn’t,” Bell said of Save MCA. “We are fortunate that we’re are not limited to the constraints of the current situation and because of that, we have had the time and resources to build a financially sustainable model. Our commitment is to have a higher education art institution in Memphis, hopefully Memphis College of Art.”

MCA interim president Laura Hine and the board have calculated a bare minimum plan that would require the school to raise $2.5 million per year for five to seven years just to remain in Rust Hall and clear the school’s debt. “I speak for the administration and board, if Save MCA can come forth with a viable plan, fully committed, of course we’re all ears,” Hine said. “But it has to be commitments from individuals or foundations in writing for us to be able to reverse course.” Hine said Save MCA’s prospect were unlikely but welcome, noting that few alumni have ever donated to the school and that small liberal arts colleges nationwide are under pressure to fundraise or face closure.

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