Leaving Water Street

Dear CTCC Students and Friends of CTCC,

In mid-October Charlottesville T’ai Chi Center will be leaving its Water Street home and searching for a safer, more affordable place to practice. I know this may come as disappointing news, especially when we have all been looking forward to being reunited in our old space one day. In this message I would like to explain to each of you why the Board of Directors has negotiated a release from our current lease and what our plans for CTCC will be going forward.

As you read this, perhaps you are saying to yourself, “Oh no! The dojo is closing!” Actually, that will never be possible, as long as there are people committed to practice and keeping CTCC alive. In the deepest sense, a dojo is not a space, no matter how lovely. In the deepest sense, the dojo is us.

You already know from your own practice that transitions are the hardest part of T’ai Chi, so let us take this transition as an opportunity and a challenge. In T’ai Chi so much depends on sensing and changing direction to work with instead of against whatever comes our way. In order to secure CTCC’s future, we must respond to the way the winds of the COVID-19 pandemic are blowing.

Like most nonprofits and small businesses, CTCC has had to confront major challenges due to the pandemic. For many months state regulations forced us to close. Then we lost the sub-tenant who made a vital contribution towards meeting our financial obligations. We quickly adapted to offer Zoom classes, but the income this generates cannot cover the costs of maintaining a physical space that we will not be able to reoccupy safely in the foreseeable future. Through it all, we have had to continue to pay rent.

After it became clear that the pandemic would be with us for some time, CTCC’s Board of Directors began meeting every other week. We discussed many strategies to keep our school active under COVID restrictions and initially tried to negotiate with the landlord to lower the rent. However, the persistence of the pandemic, the loss of our sub-tenant, and the way we have had to draw down funds to make up the shortfall led to a decision to request early termination of the lease. This was a very hard decision to make. It means giving up a place where we have come together to share our passion for Cheng Ming teachings.

Another factor that led to the decision was the safety of students and instructors. As you experienced, the Water Street building’s HVAC system was very old and noisy, and despite many attempts, they could not fix the noise. With COVID, good air circulation in a closed space has become very important. We consulted HVAC specialists W.E. Brown, but they could not suggest a solution. Even if we tried to use the space by holding classes with a small number of students with masks on, it would not bring enough funds to keep running the school, and ventilation would still be a problem.

The Board concluded that changing direction to move on is the best way to protect the generous donations that we have received from so many of you. If we leave now, those donations can be put into starting a new dojo.

The poet Lu Yu wrote a well-known verse about how to approach life’s changes, especially the ones that seem hard to take:

The clouds above us join and separate,
The breeze in the courtyard leaves and returns.
Life is like that, so why not relax?
Who can stop us from celebrating?

It might not always feel like it in the midst of a pandemic, but we have many reasons to celebrate. At a time when other organizations have simply closed their doors, we are open on Zoom and open to the future. We have each other. And we will find new doors.

Until we find a new home, my home address will be used as a temporary mailing address.

I hope you will understand how we came to this decision and I ask your continuing support,

Hiromi Johnson
October 10, 2020