Eliot School cancelled spring semester; will hold virtual fundraiser

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to take its toll on businesses and other organizations across the city, the Eliot School of Fine and Applied Arts has also taken a devastating hit. 

“We are really badly affected by the financial fallout from the pandemic,” said Executive Director Abigail Norman. “Obviously, the most important thing is public health, so we totally support all of the measures to contain the virus.”

However, the virus has caused the school to cancel all of its classes from mid-March through June, and they are hoping to open in mid-June for children’s summer programs. 

“That was devastating for us,” Norman said. “That is a quarter of our earned income for the year.”

Those who were enrolled in the courses were given three options: they could donate their tuition money back to the school, which Norman said several people have done plus added more, they could use it as credit for future classes, or they could receive a refund. 

“We opted to pay all of our teachers through the month of April for the classes they would have taught,” Norman said, but the school took a financial hit in doing so. 

To try and offset some of the financial impact, the Eliot School will be hosting its first ever virtual fundraising part on April 26. “Every year we hold a fundraiser at the home of a neighbor,” Norman said, but this year it will be held via a videoconferencing program. This year’s theme will honor four teachers who have each taught at the school for over 20 years.

Though the event is still in planning stages, Norman said she hopes to have those teachers speak, as well as some teens from the school’s teen program. She also hopes for people to show some artwork, have live music, and an interactive piece where people can participate in some activity. “We’re trying to make it really fun,” she said

Norman said they also want to possibly have an auction to auction off art supplies for a class.

“Eliot School is 344 years old this year,” she said. “We can’t let it close now.” She really hopes people will participate to support the longevity of the school.  

This is not the school’s first rodeo with hardship. The school offered woodworking to returning soldiers from World War I, where they learned to make furniture. The 1918 flu pandemic, also known as the Spanish flu, happened around this time.

“We lived through the Spanish flu and we’re going to live through this,” Norman said. 

Norman said that they are also looking to see how the Eliot School can continue participating in soma capacity with its woodworking and art programs in the Boston Public Schools, as they are now closed until at least May 4. The school’s intensive teen art program has been moved online as well. 

“We’re trying to carry through as much of our work as we can even though our current classes are cancelled,” Norman said. “Our staff is still working just as hard as we’ve always worked.” 

Norman said that offering online versions of their mainstream classes is something they have considered, but she said she is not sure that it is financially viable right now. 

“We’re all in this together,” she said. “JP has a very high number of nonprofits and ones that really, really, contribute to the vibrancy of our city and region. In addition to our small businesses and restaurants, we don’t have a big industry in JP. We have small businesses that really keep us going. Everybody is pulling together to make sure that we survive.” 

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