Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Support the Arts? Why?

Randy Cohen, vice president of research and planning at Americans for the Arts posted on Arts Blog ten months ago a nice list of the top ten reasons to support the arts. The McAninch Arts Center has a bright future ahead of it, but it will depend on whether the community we serve and the senior administration of the College of DuPage believe the arts provide something of value, and if that value is worth supporting with their dollars.

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I give you Randy Cohen's "Top Ten Reasons to Support the Arts" from April 11, 2012

1. True prosperity. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. They help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, the arts are salve for the ache.

2. Improved academic performance. Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, lower drop-out rates, and even better attitudes about community service—benefits reaped by students regardless of socioeconomic status. Students with four years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with one-half year or less.

3. Arts are an industry. Arts organizations are responsible businesses, employers, and consumers. Nonprofit arts organizations generate $135 billion in economic activity annually, supporting 4.1 million jobs and generating nearly $22.3 billion in government revenue. Investment in the arts supports jobs, generates tax revenues, and advances our creativity-based economy.

4. Arts are good for local merchants. The typical arts attendee spends $24.60 per person, per event, not including the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters. Non-local arts audiences (who live outside the county) spend nearly twice as much as local arts attendees ($39.96 vs. $17.42)—valuable revenue for local businesses and the community.

5. Arts are the cornerstone of tourism. Arts travelers are ideal tourists—they stay longer and spend more. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that the percentage of international travelers including museum visits on their trip has grown annually since 2003 (17 to 24 percent), while the share attending concerts and theater performances increased five of the past seven years (13 to 17 percent since 2003).

6. Arts are an export industry. U.S. exports of arts goods (everything from movies to paintings to jewelry) grew to $64 billion in 2010. With U.S. imports at just $23 billion, the arts achieved a $41 billion trade surplus in 2010.

7. Building the 21st century workforce. Reports by The Conference Board show creativity is among the top-five applied skills sought by business leaders—with 72 percent saying creativity is of high importance when hiring. The biggest creativity indicator? A college arts degree. Their Ready to Innovate report concludes, “…the arts—music, creative writing, drawing, dance—provide skills sought by employers of the 3rd millennium.”

8. Healthcare. Nearly one-half of the nation’s healthcare institutions provide arts programming for patients, families, and even staff. 78 percent deliver these programs because of their healing benefits to patients—shorter hospital stays, better pain management, and less medication.

9. Stronger communities. University of Pennsylvania researchers have demonstrated that a high concentration of the arts in a city leads to higher civic engagement, more social cohesion, higher child welfare, and lower poverty rates. A vibrant arts community ensures that young people are not left to be raised solely in a pop culture and tabloid marketplace.

10. Creative Industries. The Creative Industries are arts businesses that range from nonprofit museums, symphonies, and theaters to for-profit film, architecture, and advertising companies. An analysis of Dun & Bradstreet data counts 904,581 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts that employ 3.3 million people—representing 4.25 percent of all businesses and 2.15 percent of all employees, respectively.

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Philharmonic Concert Cancellation

The New Phil's New Year's Eve concert was bitter sweet this year. The music was sweeter than ever under Kirk's direction, but it was bitter knowing that the last two concerts of the season would not go on. It is a difficult decision to cancel a concert and one I have only had to make a few times in my career. As theatre people the idea of "the show must go on" is engrained in our fiber; thus, not going on with the New Philharmonic season is hard to accept.

When we were presented with the reality of being away from our concert home for two seasons we asked ourselves how will we sustain the artistic momentum that New Philharmonic and Maestro Muspratt have been gaining. The orchestra has steadily been growing audience and ticket revenue over the last five years. And all would agree that the concerts are a delight to attend, so what effect would two years away from the MAC have? We were advised by some at the College to shutter the operation, that our audience would come back when we were ready for them. At the same time many of our fondest patrons were asking us where they would go for classical music through the Spring of 2014?

It roughly costs the orchestra on average $40,000 to produce each two evening concert concert cycle. The math is pretty simple, at the $32 average ticket price we need over 1,250 people to attend a concert. So when we made the decision to rent concert halls away from our own home and present a modified season (2 fewer concerts) we calculated that 80% of our current audience base would need to follow us. In reality only 40% did. When asked, and we called every subscriber, the reply we heard over and over was, "we love New Phil, we love Kirk, but venue x is too far to travel to in the winter. We'll see you next year when the MAC is back up and running."

Facing a 60% drop in ticket revenue, I made the only decision that seemed prudent. We cancelled the final two concerts of the season, Cosi fon tutte and Great Russians. We will end the season in the red and the College will have to cover our deficit. Something they have consistently done to one degree or another for the last decade.

Going forward is the next question. In the era of revenue neutral (see post from December 28) we will need to know that the dollars through the door, in the form of donations, ticket sales and sponsorships, can cover all the expenses of this fine orchestra. The College does not want to cover any deficit at the MAC with income from student tuition or tax revenues. This policy includes all MAC operations including the MAC Artist Series, Buffalo Theatre Ensemble and Schoolstage, our K-12 education program.

So the onus now is on you, our patron. If you enjoy the orchestra or value any of the offerings of the MAC let us know how you are willing to support your community performing arts center. Comment here or contact me (630) 942-3008 or cummins@cod.edu.

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