Kennedy Center to Help Arts Programs in Economic Trouble
In recent weeks, organizations from almost every part of the country have reported belt-tightening measures, or worse. The Baltimore Opera Company filed for bankruptcy. The Seattle Repertory Theatre asked its staff of 55 to take two weeks of unpaid leave. The Orlando Ballet cut live music for "The Nutcracker" so the dance troupe wouldn't be reduced. The Santa Clarita Symphony in California canceled its season.
The Denver Post reported Sunday that many local arts organizations had cut their budgets by 12 percent but had not instituted layoffs. And the Chicago Tribune reported Sunday that the Joffrey Ballet froze hiring eight months ago.
For the Kennedy Center to step in is a good sign, says Jennifer Cover Payne, the president of the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington. "Most organizations are in need of some assistance. There is a decrease in foundation, individual and government funding," she said. More than half of the regions' arts groups have budgets below $1 million. "People are already making adjustments on staff, salaries and space." Locally, the Bead Museum in Gallery Place has closed, and Zenith Gallery has announced that high rent is forcing it to close its physical space soon.
Payne posits that the Kennedy Center might be overwhelmed. "I would suspect there are few that would not be responding," she says.
The confluence of declining sources of funding is daunting, says Bill Ivey, the director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University.
"Everything is diminished in this environment," says Ivey, a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts who hopes the $50 million for the NEA in the House version of the economic stimulus bill survives. "At the end of the day, it is about money, not just advice," he says.
The Kennedy Center's program received $500,000 mainly from two individuals: board member Helen Lee Henderson and Adrienne Arsht, a Miami businesswoman and philanthropist. The amount partially funds projects for the next year, including administrative costs such as travel to the Kennedy Center for organization staff members. "We don't feel these problems are ending soon," Kaiser said.