Earth House cites unsustainable business model for closure

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Leaders of a church-affiliated Indianapolis arts organization are citing an unsustainable business model as the reason why its doors will close at the end of the month.

Earth House Collective, 237 N. East St., will host its final events on Aug. 31 before suspending operations, group board member Brenda Freije said Thursday.

Lockerbie Central United Methodist Church, where Freije is the pastor, began Earth House in 2007 by showing documentaries to the community. Over the years, the organization added services such as a cafe, art displays, live music and a community garden. One of its regular events is an open-mic night on Thursday evenings.

The Earth House sanctuary, which holds 600, and the cafe regularly hosted concerts and other events.

The collective at New York and East streets previously hosted monthly meetings of Verge, a networking group for techies and entrepreneurs that includes Chris Baggott, CEO of Compendium Blogware and co-founder of ExactTarget.

Baggott, the Efromson Family Fund, the Freije family and the Indianapolis Foundation were among the collective's biggest financial supporters.

Earth House operated as a supporting organization for the church, but was working on receiving independent 501(c)3 status from the IRS when the group's six board members decided costs were too much.

Freije said she did not have specific financial figures readily available during a phone interview Thursday morning. She repeatedly cited problems with the overall business model for the reason to close.

“Earth House tried to be fair and generous, and at some point you can be too generous,” she said.

Executive Director Jordan Updike could not be reached for comment Thursday morning.

Board President Joanna Nixon referred questions about the closure to Freije.

Freije said the church intends to maintain ownership of the building, but it has not decided what to do with the property.

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