Bent, the Queer writing institute founded by poet Tara Hardy in her living room in 2000 is a valuable and important literary, artistic and cultural resource for the LGBTQ community of Seattle, regardless if you are a writer or just appreciate and value their presence in the community. The group offers classes and seminars for queer writers and is the first such institute in the county and strives to “educate, inspire, and encourage queer writers”.
The group has grown over the years but as often is the case with small, arts based non-profits, it’s having some growing pains…and, some financial woes. Bent has gone to crowd sourcing in an effort to pay some bills and get back on their feet, using GoFundMe to raise $2800 in the next few weeks. A letter from the Bent community explains why they need some help:
Dear Bent Community,
The Bent board of directors and teachers would like to let you know about some important developments happening this Summer with Bent. The past year has been one of much transition with Bent: moving to a new space, hiring co-directors, transitioning in many new board members. In the past several months we’ve also seen both of our co-directors choose to step down at the end of their contracts in May, several teachers decide to move on to other pursuits, and the Bent board has struggled to maintain sufficient funding for the operations of Bent, including denial of an important grant that would have sustained much of our funding for the year.
What is clear is that Bent has been a place of significant impact on the LGBTIQ writing community and a home to a wonderful creative community. What is also clear from the past several years is that in its current structure, Bent does not have the capacity to sustain itself–in terms of money and the volunteer time required to support a thriving organization.
Given our fluid tuition structure, Bent does not have a consistent revenue stream and the board has not been successful in finding alternative funds. In order to be responsible with our resources, the board has made the difficult decision to no longer lease a physical space for Bent. As of the end of this month Bent will be moving out of our current location at HSDC. We found this step necessary in order to cease our spending so that we can take care of paying our co-directors’ final month’s salary and rent for the months of May, June, and July.
We do not yet know what the future of Bent will be and we would like to invite you to come to a community meeting on Tuesday, July 30th from 7:30-9:00pm in order to give your input about future decisions. At the meeting we will discuss where Bent has been in the past year, the current state of the organization, and possible roads forward.
Two possible options that we currently see before us are, 1) to maintain our non-profit status and partner with other organizations to hold classes in alternative spaces, increase volunteer participation, and restructure the Bent organizational model. 2) to close the 501(c)3, effectively ending this season of Bent’s existence and allowing something else to emerge (some possibilities might be a teaching collective, free writing groups, etc.).
At present, Bent currently owes $1,350 in contracted salary to our co-directors for the month of May and $1400 to members of the board who have covered rent for the past 3 months, totaling $2750 in debts. As a non-profit, we have always existed on the generosity of our extended community and we have used our funds this year to continue to offer a space for LGBTIQ writers to come and create together. We are currently launching an online giving campaign to cover these expenses and we invite you to express your gratitude and support for what Bent has meant to you by considering making a donation and spreading the word to others.
The future of Bent will, as it always has, depend on all of you, your creativity, your passion, and what you see as the need for Bent as we move forward. We offer all of this news with sadness and with real gratitude for all the support and heart that you all have given to Bent through the years. We hope to see you at the community meeting and to get your input as we move forward.
If you have a buck or two or a hundred, then please give them a hand.