By Michael Jacobs

Just months after celebrating its 40th birthday, the Chastain Arts Center will be cutting operating hours and services because of the latest Atlanta budget cuts.

The center’s director, Erin Bailey, delivered the bad news to Neighborhood Planning Unit A on Dec. 2 a few hours after the city announced 222 layoffs and other cuts to try to close a budget gap estimated at $50 million to $60 million.

Bailey had few details because the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs was still making plans, but she was clear about one thing: “The center’s going to have to become totally self-supporting.”

The Chastain Arts Center already was covering all of its programming costs through the fees it charges for classes and such fundraising events as the Holiday Show & Sale running through Dec. 20.

The city’s first round of fiscal 2009 budget cuts this summer forced the center to pay all of its utility bills. Now the salary for Bailey, the center’s only full-time employee, also is being moved out of the city’s general fund and becoming the center’s responsibility.

That move won’t save Bailey from the city’s 10 percent furlough. She now is limited to 36 hours of work per week.

“I am hopeful that we will get through it. I feel good about the way the center has performed in the last seven or eight years I’ve been here, and we’ll get through it somehow,” she said. “It’s been there 40 years; hopefully it will be there another 40.”

The center celebrated its 40th anniversary with an open house Sept. 27 that was meant to introduce more people to the center’s services, which are open to people outside Atlanta as well as city residents.

Bailey said the center has a new program to help people afford classes: For every hour you volunteer in one session, you can take an hour of classes in a later session.

“I’ll be looking for more support and help as we become more independent,” Bailey said.