By John Schaffner

The Brookhaven Arts Alliance (BAA) has canceled the Taste of Brookhaven, which was scheduled for June 6, because of what was described as a “challenging sponsorship climate” and increased overhead costs, alliance Executive Director Gretchen Roberts announced late last month.

“Since its inception this popular event has sold out, and we were looking forward to another sellout year as we celebrate our 5th anniversary,” Roberts said in an e-mail blast. “However, a challenging sponsorship climate, coupled with an increase in event overhead, has led the BAA to view this cancellation as a sound business decision due to our limited resources.”

As in previous years, the Taste of Brookhaven was to have been a four-hour event featuring an array of foods and wines from Atlanta’s top restaurants, live and silent auctions, chef demonstrations, and live music under a tent at Oglethorpe University.

“I personally shoulder a great deal of disappointment about canceling this year’s event. We had great restaurants already lined up,” Roberts told the Brookhaven Reporter. “The caliber of the event has really improved in the past two years. Our work had begun to pay off.”

But, she added, “it was a good decision to table this for now.”

Roberts said she hopes the economic climate will improve next year so that the Taste of Brookhaven can return in 2010.

She said the BAA would contact people who hold alliance memberships that include tickets to the Taste of Brookhaven to address their lost value.

Roberts said one of the problems is that Brookhaven lacks a business district — a core of businesses that can support such events as sponsors. “One of the things on my list is to form a business alliance,” Roberts said, “to work together to support the three major initiatives we have identified in the community: the Brookhaven Arts Alliance, Parks Committee and the Ashford Park School.”

At the present, she said, the volunteer corps for such events is light. “We need to form a board in order to take this to the next level, with an army of talented people.”

Asked if there is any possibility that the fall Brookhaven Arts Festival might also be in jeopardy, Roberts responded: “Absolutely not. We are in great shape there.”

The Arts Festival is scheduled for Oct. 17 and 18 this year.

On a positive note, Roberts said the BAA will focus on the launch of its community art classes.

“The mission of the Brookhaven Arts Alliance is to provide art education and cultural events to residents and visitors of Brookhaven with the goal of opening the Brookhaven Center for the Arts,” Roberts wrote.

“This initiative represents the critical momentum necessary to reach our ultimate objective” to build that center.

The BAA will teach the initial art classes in the recently constructed Ashford Park Community Center, she added, “thanks to the generous cooperation of DeKalb County.”

Along with the art education program, the alliance has been awarded a grant to develop business principles for its board of directors and board of advisers.

“We will create a business plan with an eye towards fulfilling our goal of developing the arts center,” Roberts said. “The BAA looks forward to attracting a talented team to help communicate our vision to Brookhaven residents and interested stakeholders.”

Through the grant, Roberts said, the organization is working to develop a playbook to recruit and retain quality board members, volunteers and sponsors.