Pay cuts, furloughs, reduced hours - that's the reality for a number of local arts organizations hit by the recession. But it's not all doom and gloom.
Productions like Cider House Rules draw big crowds to Book-It Repertory Theatre in Seattle, where the average ticket is $30 - a steal in this economy.
“One of the thing that's been great for us is that we've seen almost a 50 percent increase in earned income in the last two years,” said Jane Jones, artistic co-director of Book-It Repertory Theatre.
While other organizations like the Seattle Symphony and Pacific Northwest Ballet are instituting pay cuts or furloughs, smaller groups like Book-It are seeing an interesting trend: Fewer people subscribing, but more people buying single tickets.
“I think the biggest change for us recently has been to take a temperature check on new audience activities and their habits of how they're buying tickets, when they're buying tickets, how many tickets do they buy?” said Myra Platt, artistic co-director, Book-It Repertory Theatre.
The Artsfund, which supports 70 local arts groups, saw donations slip 20 percent last year, but tighter budgets are forcing organizations to get creative with less.
“There's a lot of creativity going on and arts groups have to be creative,” said Jim Tune, CEO of Artsfund. “They have to do things that require risk and skill in order to keep the public.”
In the face of a recession, something positive is emerging: Seattle is a community that values the arts and live performances, where people are willing to make sacrifices for this kind of entertainment.
“My money, part of it goes to the arts, part of it goes to paying my mortgage,” said Joanne Klein, patron.
“We would find a way to do it, wouldn't hurt us at all if we missed a meal or two and it's important enough for us to make other kinds of cuts in our budget,” said Dick Wiest, patron.
Performances have the power to nurture the mind and soul.
“And when there's a crisis, people seek gathering places. They seek others to really share their stories or find means for hope, or inspiration to make a change,” said Platt.
And that, some might argue, is priceless.
While other arts organizations are cutting staff, Book-It is getting ready to add staff positions to help identify their best patrons and focus on keeping their business.
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