Seattle's Intiman Theatre must raise extra $500,000 by March 31 to stay open

The Seattle Times, February 11, 2011

The Intiman Theatre, one of Seattle's flagship companies and a Tony Award honoree, must raise $1 million in addition to its planned annual goal of $1.75 million, or it cannot meet its production expenses for the season, says Intiman board president Kim Anderson [who] blamed "inflated budget projections, unpaid bills and a complete lack of financial and accounting oversight" for leaving the theater "dangerously low on cash."  Intiman must raise an extra $500,000 by March 31, an additional $250,000 by June, and $250,000 more by September.  Amid intensifying rumors of its financial instability, Intiman went public with its fiscal problems last fall. [Its former managing director resigned Nov. 1.]  Since then, the company has raised $874,315.  But the company needs a total of $2.75 million, to ensure the company's future and its planned 2011 season, which is set to begin in March.  Intiman's annual budget is an estimated $5 million.  Intiman has been a leading professional theater in Seattle since its founding in 1972.  Though she acknowledges this is a difficult time to raise substantial sums for arts groups, Anderson said, "There is a general feeling we've gotten, even from other arts organizations, that you can't allow Intiman to fail. The work's too important to the infrastructure of the entire local arts community."


Syracuse Symphony meets first goal of its emergency fundraising drive

Syracuse Post-Standard, February 5, 2011

Syracuse Symphony Orchestra announced it has raised $473,787 [in] the first phase of the orchestra's public fundraising campaign, "Keep the music playing," which has a target of $1.75 million by August.  SSO management announced Jan. 25 the organization was in jeopardy of closing midway through its 50th anniversary season if it could not first raise $375,000 to meet its February payroll and expenses by Friday. By meeting its goal, the organization can receive $100,000 the County Legislature promised the SSO if it was successful. The SSO will receive another $100,000 when it reaches $445,000 in donations for its March deadline.  The orchestra, which has a $6.9 million budget for 2010-2011, has been running deficit budgets for the last three years. It employs 63 core musicians and another 14 contract musicians and a staff of 15 full-time and seven part-time workers. Performance revenue accounts for only 33% of the SSO budget, with ticket sales declining 23% for the last three years. During this time, government support declined by 32% and corporate funding by 24%.  This is the second time in seven months the SSO has been on the brink of financial collapse. In July 2010, an "angel investor" rescued it. In contrast to Syracuse's struggles, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra announced last month it ended its 2009-10 fiscal year with a surplus of $2,416. The orchestra's budget last year was $9.2 million. It employs 57 core musicians and 27 additional musicians.


Commentary: Is the playing field level for commercial theater?

Denver Post theater critic John Moore, February 13, 2011

In the wake of the announcement that [the for-profit] Nonesuch Theater will close on April 9, owner Nick Turner is mulling a big and compelling question: "Why do we as a society place more value on nonprofit theater than for-profit theater?"  We certainly subsidize nonprofits with tax-deductible gifts.  First, a disclaimer: "For-profit theater" does not mean that you necessarily make a profit.  "Yeah, that's a lie," said Michael J. Duran, producer of the for-profit Boulder's Dinner Theatre. If anything, for-profit theaters are at a far greater financial disadvantage. The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (a penny per $10 sales tax), distributes $40 million a year to 300 area nonprofit arts groups. Commercial ventures like Nonesuch and BDT are on their own. How great is the disparity?  Nonesuch is a 49-seat salon theater with obviously limited revenue potential.  A small but established [non-profit] like the Paragon Theatre [gets] 46% of its income from contributed support. "I can't even fathom trying to run a theater company as a for-profit," said [its] artistic director Warren Sherrill. Bas Bleu founder Wendy Ishii, whose company preceded Turner in the Nonesuch space, says it's important nonprofits are subsidized by tax-incentivized donors "because if not, ticket prices would have to go sky-high and that would make the art only affordable for the wealthy.  But it's not just the nonprofit arts. I don't think that science could survive without these same kinds of incentives because it is so similarly dependent on grants to move things forward."


Commentary: What is a 'mission-failing' arts org?  You know it when you see it.

Diane Ragsdale on her ArtsJournal blog Jumper, February 13, 2011

In last week's post I suggested the sector might be strengthened if some 'mission-failing' organizations were to close.  I defined mission-failing organizations as those not providing sufficient cultural or social value relative to the investments in them.  I find it difficult to describe a mission-failing organization with any confidence; however, I can give an example of its opposite -- an organization providing great cultural and social value -- and did so in a talk I gave in 2010 called The Excellence Barrier.  In using the term 'mission-failing' I was intentionally avoiding the generic term 'failing' as I think it implies financial failure and one cannot assume the groups that struggle the most financially are those that are providing the least value to society. (Though it is logical to ask how sustainable such financially failing organizations are.)  What is the path forward to winnow mission-accomplishing organizations from time-marking [ones]?  There is no easy answer. We may not be able to reduce the number of nonprofit theaters (and other types of arts organizations) that exist; but funders certainly can reduce the number that receive grants. Private and government funders should target their resources to those that are clicking on all cylinders -- and I suggest prioritizing those that cannot as easily cultivate support from individual donors or develop other revenue streams.

Please consider the environment before printing out this email.  Thanks.
YOU'VE COTT MAIL is a free service for professionals in the arts.  Emails are sent most weekdays. 
If you are not already on the distribution list and would like to sign up, please click here:

Join Our Mailing List      Follow me on Twitter     
Click here to view an archive of recent past editions of "You've Cott Mail."