Progress reports for 15 top arts groups
Figures on each arts group include their expenditures for last year and budgets for this year, along with deficits if there were any. Note that while most groups account by fiscal years, which begin in July and run through June of the following year, some count calendar years. Many of the 2002-03 figures are projections. We included a percentage of how much of their income was "earned" (through ticket and merchandise sales, etc.). Contributed income, or donations from individuals, companies, foundations and agencies, make up the rest of the groups' income.
We also included attendance figures. For the performing arts, the percentage indicates how many of the seats available were sold; for museums, we listed total attendance.
The following reports were compiled by Seattle Times reporters Melinda Bargreen, Misha Berson, Sheila Farr and Young Chang.
Company general director Speight Jenkins was a little dismayed by the attendance for the first 2002-03 production, last fall's "Eugene Onegin." Numbers are still being toted up for the current "Don Pasquale," which probably will do better.
One trend: People are buying discounted and less expensive tickets. The average price per ticket dropped $10 this season from last. Under programs set up by the late Kathy Magiera, the opera has deficit-reduction programs in place before any deficit has a chance to show up.
More people are coming to concerts this season than last — 10,000 more at latest count — and some new donors have stepped forward. Card feels positive about the numbers, even though the orchestra also has to plan for its 2003-'04 centennial season. "We're not spending a lot of money on birthday-cake trimmings," she says; next spring's East Coast tour to Carnegie Hall has been scaled down, and money is being raised separately in advance.
Pacific Northwest Ballet
"We are working on three fronts: ticket sales, fundraising/contributions and expenses," Brown explains. "You can make it work if only one of those fronts is difficult. If more than one is a challenge, you have to make cuts and knock on more doors." The number of individual contributors is up, but total contributions are down, as is investment income.
To keep costs in line, PNB is trimming a few performances. The staff is taking a two-week mandatory leave, in the spring, and a new Kent Stowell ballet (as yet untitled) will be replaced with Stowell's "Quaternary" in March.
Northwest Chamber Orchestra
The orchestra is stuck with artistic decisions made in a time of greater prosperity (including the expansion of the core orchestra and the hiring of a music director, the highly regarded Ralf Gothóni). Board president Mark Paben says the board is expanding, and that the orchestra also is cutting costs; some key decisions on cuts should be made this month.
Next season will be "radically different," Paben says; they're looking at different numbers of concerts, configurations of the orchestra, even venues.
NWCO's subscriptions are also down by 20 percent from last season.
The main trouble hit during the 2001-02 season. General manager Robb Hunt says, "We basically did the same kind of budgeting we'd done in previous years. As it turned out, because of 9/11, our first show in the season sold poorly. And the general economy weakened subscription sales."
The Village ended the season with a rare deficit of more than $493,000, which it has worked diligently to pay down since. The company seems to have recovered its equilibrium in the current season — in part due to popular stagings of "Oklahoma!" and "The Sound of Music."
"We've got a product people want," declares Intiman general manager Laura Penn. "In fact, nationally the trend in theaters is that a lot of people are coming through the door. But what we have to figure out is how to keep doing the same good work we've been doing onstage while building our donor income, selling more tickets, and just persevering as the economy hopefully recovers."
On the funding side, says Penn, "We didn't lose donors. But we didn't get donors to increase their gifts, or gain new donors at the rate we need to." The essential costs of putting on shows — labor, materials, utilities — are going up incrementally every year.
One adjustment the company made last year was to discount fewer tickets, and institute modest price hikes on regular tickets.
Seattle Repertory Theatre
But Seattle Rep is dealing with more immediate problems. After a 2001-02 season that broke box-office records for single-ticket sales, admissions are dropping a projected 6 percent this season. And general manager Benjamin Moore foresees a deficit of about $473,000.
"The attendance problem this year is primarily deriving from subscriptions, and the fact that our winter show 'Light Up the Sky' had a pretty miserable time at the box office," says Moore.
Moore observes, "People aren't committing themselves to six- to nine-play packages the way they used to. We're trying to adjust by marketing smaller packages, and that is working — but slowly."
The Rep is eliminating one educational program that was planned for the spring.
The company managed to cover a hefty $800,000 deficit following its 2001 season with cash reserves. But though paid attendance at ACT rose 4 percent in 2002, costs also rose and some productions ran over budget. The theater racked up a fresh projected deficit of at least $500,000 — a shortfall it hopes to banish through intensive budget cuts and fund-raising.
General manager Jim Loder prefers to look on the bright side. "We've been very pleased by our steady but small growth in attendance and donor income," Loder notes. "But we're not reaching the income goals we set." He believes ACT can woo more ticket buyers by promoting its central location, its new schedule and the mission of incoming artistic head Robert Egan to emphasize important new American plays.
Seattle Children's Theatre
But general manager Kevin Maifeld says, "Attendance is not really the big issue. Contributed income is the real struggle. People have been very generous to us, but we don't know about the future. Many donors are saying they just can't give what they've been giving us in past years."
The theater company had closed its 2001-2002 season with a budget deficit of more than $300,000. But the gap was covered by cash reserves.
Seattle Art Museum
For the expansion of SAM's downtown facility into the proposed new Washington Mutual office tower, no budget has yet been set, says SAM's public relations manager, Cara Egan.
"We're still looking at 2006 for opening the first phase of the expansion, the public space and gallery space (in the office tower)," Egan says.
Development of the sculpture park remains contingent on plans for changing the viaduct, with a 2005 opening still planned.
SAM, which has a $64 million endowment, got a big attendance boost with the lucky timing of its "Mexican Modernism" show coinciding with the release of the movie "Frida." The museum closed the show 60 percent over its projections, with attendance of 146,337. Membership increased by 1,869.
Egan says corporate giving has fallen, but one positive note is a Lila Wallace diversity grant, which continues to pay off for SAM.
"The last couple exhibitions have been a great increase in multi-cultural visitors," Egan says. "There's a variety of ages, a variety of cultures. You can look around and see it."
Henry Art Gallery
Total cost of the project is $1.4 million. In addition, a 75th anniversary campaign brought in $850,000 for the endowment fund, bringing it close to $7 million.
Nevertheless, attendance has fallen off, but is expected to peak again when a big Turrell exhibit opens this spring. The budget has been trimmed.
"We didn't fill a few (staff) positions," Fahey says. "It was sort of a softer, friendlier way than layoffs and is working so far."
Bellevue Art Museum
It's being paid off with help from museum trustees, and BAM plans on making ends meet with this year's leaner budget. With only about $1 million in cash and pledges for an endowment, BAM has been facing tough financial challenges.
Since new director Kathleen Harleman took the helm last year, staff layoffs and streamlined expenses have helped staunch the cash-flow problems the institution developed when it moved into its new building in 2000.
Harleman says attendance is being more carefully monitored. Regarding last year's figure, she says: "I honestly can't tell you the exact figure, because no one can convince me we were keeping accurate count."
The fuzziness is due in part to estimates of unpaid attendees during the Bellevue Arts Festival. Now, she says, each person that comes in is being counted. Fund-raising for the endowment is planned.
As for now, the museum's expenditures are roughly even with its income, Harleman says, and the budget is checked every two weeks.
"We're pushing really, really hard to balance this budget."
Tacoma Art Museum
"No one has defaulted on pledges, but we're working with people on how their donations are paid," Chamberlin says.
Attendance was up this December from the previous one, but the institution expects a much bigger leap in interest when its new Antoine Predock building opens.
As for the endowment: TAM has $4 million and through the capital campaign is raising another $5 million.
"The sale of our old building will also go toward endowment," Chamberlin says, "so our goal is to bring the number up to $10 million by the end of the fiscal year."
Museum of Glass (opened July 2002)
Building an endowment fund has been another story. With a goal of $15 million and most donations channeled into the capital campaign, the museum is still hoping to start stashing away funds for an endowment.
In the meantime, a donor has pledged $750,000 a year for five years to help carry the institution forward.
Public-relations manager Hillary Gray says the slow economy shows primarily in the cutback in corporate giving.
Attendance, however, has been better than expected. The goal was 165,000 for the first year, and the museum exceeded it in the first six months of operations, 185,000 to date.
Experience Music Project
"Just about all major cultural institutions have a period of decreased attendance once their maiden years are over," said Bob Santelli, CEO of the music museum, which opened in June 2000.
"We knew that year two, three, year four maybe, perhaps even year five may have slight decreases in attendance. However, due to the economy, that figure is larger than we anticipated."
Last year was EMP's first chance to learn about operating conditions during a consistent, full year, Santelli added, as the museum had opened for just six months in 2000 while 2001 brought forth inconsistencies after Sept. 11.
With $4 million less in the budget for 2003, Santelli expects the year's focus to expand beyond Seattle through traveling exhibits and other national features that are a part of EMP's involvement in the "Year of the Blues."
"It's not necessarily a year for bold experimentation," he said. "It's time to tighten our belt and to find ways to create other alternative revenue streams while attendance remains flat or even down."