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WFPL News Hires Erin Keane as Arts and Humanities Reporter

89.3 WFPL News has hired Erin Keane as the new Arts and Humanities reporter.

“We are all thrilled Erin is joining us,” says Gabe Bullard, WFPL News Director. “She is a sharp and thoughtful reporter. She’s a skilled writer. And she has great ties to the community. Her talents and insights will improve our ever-expanding newsroom..”

Keane will begin work at WFPL News by providing coverage of the Actor’s Theatre Humana Festival of New American Plays. She will then report arts, cultural, and humanities stories from around the community and produce reviews. “Her knowledge and experience make her a leader,” says Bullard, “and we’re looking forward to starting a new era of unparalleled arts coverage at WFPL News.” Keane is not new to Louisville Public Media, as she already provides weekly music news for WFPL’s sister station 91.9 WFPK-FM.

“I’m excited and honored to join WFPL News in expanding the station’s coverage of arts and culture,” says Keane. “Louisville’s performing, visual, and literary arts are vital threads in the fabric of our city, and I’m looking forward to bringing those stories to the air.”

WFPL News is hiring Keane as a part of its expansion of local news coverage, and its commitment to become the community’s best choice for news. Keane is the fourth reporter to join the team in the past year.

Keane has previously worked with the Courier-Journal providing arts and culture reports. She is the author of two collections of poetry, and has taught a course on Pop Music in American Literature at Bellarmine University. She was named 2011 Best Arts Writer in LEO Readers’ Choice awards. Keane earned her MFA in creative writing at Spalding University. A recipient of a fellowship from the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts and the Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council, she serves on the editorial boards of Strange Horizons and The Heartland Review and teaches in the MFA program at National University.

Photo by Kevin Flores

Arts and Humanities Local News

Orchestra Management Offers Binding Arbitration, Ultimatum to Musicians

The Louisville Orchestra has put another offer on the table for musicians.

The orchestra has not performed all year and the players and management remain at odds over the terms of a new contract. Today, management offered to enter binding arbitration with the musicians.

Both sides would choose a member of the National Academy of Arbitrators who would help settle remaining conflicts on the size of the orchestra, the season length, the contract length, salary, benefits and non-compete terms. The management has agreed not to cut musician pay, though a shorter season would mean less money for the players.

If the players do not accept the offer by next Friday, orchestra management says they will hire new musicians. A representative for the musicians says the group is still reviewing the offer.

Local News

Actors Theatre Finishes New Artist Dormitory

Louisville’s Actors Theatre will open the doors of 18 new downtown apartments this week, which will be used to house actors and actresses throughout the year.

“Everything is brand spanking new,” said designer Kevin Troxall.

Troxall designed all the apartments for free, which is partly how Actors Theatre was able to pull off securing and renovating the space at 300 Main Street including three floors of one-bedroom and studio apartments.

Local News

Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts Wants To Expand

The Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts is trying to expand enrollment and space, but the summer program will have to compete for extra funding to make up for a decrease in its state appropriation.

GSA has proposed a two-year budget of over $1 million that would almost double enrollment to 400 for the three-week arts program, but the legislature is still faced with a slow recovery since the recession and there will be competition for funding, said GSA Executive Director Carrie Nath.

“Everyone’s going in there, everyone needs more money, everyone truly believes their program is the most important program, and the fact is they’re all important,” she said.

Interest in the program has grown, but GSA has been unable to expand.

“We really want to extend to a second campus. I mean last year we had 1,750 students apply and out of that we can only sever 224 and that’s strictly budgetary,” Nath said.

The Cabinet for Tourism, Arts and Heritage has reduced appropriations to the program by nearly 30-percent over the last few years. Almost half of the budget is now raised through donations.

GSA will plead its case before the legislature early next year, said Nath.

Applications for the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts summer program are due by year’s end. The three-week summer program celebrates its 25th anniversary next year.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Orchestra Woes Continue, Both Sides Face Difficult Futures

Neither side has blinked in the Louisville Orchestra labor dispute, and both the management and the musicians are facing difficult futures and the potential end of the orchestra.

The management now plans to follow through on threats to go against union wishes and hire a 50-member replacement orchestra. Finding 50 talented nonunion players will be difficult, but Chicago-based arts consultant Drew McManus says it’s not impossible.

McManus, however, says sustaining such an ensemble will be difficult. Guest players and conductors will be hard to book and community support for a new, potentially amateur orchestra may wane. Noted musician and Chairman Emeritus of the International Conference of Symphony Robert Levine says the plan is doomed to fail. He writes that auditions for new players will be picketed by union members. Further, he says conductors and guest artists will be hard to find for an ensemble made up of players who are persona non grata in the eyes of the union.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Anonymous Donor Agrees to Pay for Consultant in Orchestra Talks

Another party may soon enter the Louisville Orchestra contract negotiations.

The management and musicians have been in talks for a new contract for over a year. Last week, concerts for this month and next month were canceled due to the lack of a contract. Both sides met with Mayor Greg Fischer, who today announced that an anonymous donor has come forward to pay for a national consultant to work with mediators.

“I strongly encourage both sides to take advantage of this opportunity,” says Fischer in a statement. “I urge the parties to continue talking and be creative as the orchestra is an important part of Louisville’s cultural footprint and all options for preserving it should be pursued. My hope is that a sustainable financial artistic solution can be achieved.”

The musicians committee chair welcomed the decision, saying the players had long sought to have someone with expertise join the talks. Orchestra CEO Robert Birman says outside consultants previously weighed in on the contract already and didn’t help broker a deal. He’s pleased the mayor found a donor to pay for a new consultant, but hasn’t decided whether to accept the offer.

“We just heard about it an hour before the mayor put out a statement urging the parties to do it. And that’s great. We will be discussing it and we’ll get back to the mayor next week,” says Birman.

The orchestra management will also decide whether it must cancel performances in November next week. Cancelation notices must be given about 60 days in advance.

The two sides are currently working with the Louisville Labor Management Committee. The management has sought to sign musicians to contracts of various lengths, ranging from 10 to 30 weeks. They say that’s the only workable financial model. The musicians have offered to cut the orchestra from 71 to 60 full time musicians, each signed for 35 weeks. The number of players would then be increased in subsequent seasons.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Two Months of Orchestra Concerts Called Off

All Louisville Orchestra concerts scheduled for September and October have been canceled.

The season was set to begin September 10. But orchestra management sent out a notice of the cancellations Wednesday evening, citing an impasse with the musicians over a contract for the next season. The two sides are in mediation with the Louisville Labor Management Committee and will meet with Mayor Greg Fischer later this week to try to work out a deal.

“I think we’re on the verge of a collapse in our arts community,” says musicians committee chair Kim Tichenor. “As it is right now, the orchestra plays for the ballet and the opera. We have musicians who are leaving town and that affects the whole community.”

In the meantime, the national musicians union has effectively blocked any members from playing without a contract. Tichenor says the musicians have offered to simply extend their previous contract until a new deal could be reached, but the proposal was rejected.

In the statement announcing the cancellations, Orchestra CEO Rob Birman said the musicians turned down an offer to be paid their previous wages of $925 a week for the next season.

“That is a highly competitive wage for any professional musician in the United States,” he said.

But Tichenor says that’s misleading, as the length of the contracts would be altered as part of a tiered plan that hired musicians only for certain concerts

“People are being asked to go from 37 weeks down to 10 weeks. Some musicians are being asked to take that large of a pay cut. Going from $34,000 a year to $9,000 a year with a huge cut in benefits along to go with it is not a competitive wage.”

Not all musicians play in every concert and Birman previously told WFPL News the orchestra could not afford to pay all of the musicians for the entire season.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Judge Will Hear Arguments on Orchestra Reorganization Today

A decisive court hearing in the Louisville Orchestra’s bankruptcy case is today. A judge is expected to rule on the management’s financial reorganization plan, which outlines how it will pay its creditors and continue operations. But attorneys for a musician’s pension fund say the proposal is invalid until the musicians and management agree on a contract for the next season.

Officials with the fund say if the plan goes forward without a contract, the orchestra owes them a $3 million penalty fee. In that case, they say the orchestra’s $7 million endowment should be considered part of its assets and potentially be used to pay the pensions.

“What we want to do is investigate the endowment, to take a look at whether portions of those endowment funds could’ve been construed as unrestricted operating funds and thus they could’ve enlarged the debtor’s estate for the purpose of settling our $3 million claim as well as other claims by the creditors,” says fund co-chair Ray Hair.

The argument doesn’t mean the fund wants the judge to reject the plan. Hair adds that the best outcome would be a delayed ruling that gives the parties more time to finish contract negotiations.

“We are hopeful that eventually peace will break out and grow and flower and music will return to Louisville and our $3 million liability claim will go away and everything can be better,” he says.

If the judge rejects the plan, other creditors, including the fund, could submit their own plans for consideration.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Actors Theatre Hopes to Attract Crowds With Building Renovations

Actors Theatre of Louisville has unveiled several improvements to its downtown Louisville headquarters.

The Actors Theatre building is across the street from the KFC Yum center. Until recently, there was little outward indication of what was inside. But that’s changed. Using $450,000 in grants and donations, Actors Theatre has renovated its lobby and refurbished the building’s façade, adding new signs and banners along Main Street.

“We needed to seize upon the opportunity with the thousands of people who are down here for events at the KFC Yum Center, not to mention the almost 70,000 people who work down here to build awareness amongst them,” says managing director Jennifer Bielstein.

The renovations come at a time when funding for the arts is shakier than ever. Mayor Greg Fischer recently told arts groups to prepare a Plan B in case city grants are cut next year. But an increase in ticket sales won’t make up for a loss of city funds.

“We need both, though. We actually, really, we need both,” says Bielstein. “Our ticket sales cover, barely, half of our expenses.”

Actors Theatre has cut its costs significantly since the recession began.

“I’ve been here almost five years. And when I first came here and then ongoing, have compared our operating budget to other places that I’ve worked, our peer theaters’ operating budget and Actors Theatre produces twice as many productions for the same amount of money, so we stretch our dollars really far,” she says.

The cuts have included changes to the season and staff, as well as the addition of co-productions—plays performed in coordination with other theater companies.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Orchestra Musicians Protest, Consider Federal Mediation

The Louisville Orchestra is in the middle of a bankruptcy filling and contract negotiations. This week, the musicians rejected an offer from management, saying it was unfair. Now the management, board and union leaders have agreed to bring in federal mediators, but there’s one group that hasn’t accepted that process: the musicians.

Shortly after three of the four sides released the statement saying federal mediation was on the table, the musicians held a protest outside of the orchestra’s offices to publicly reject the latest contract proposal and discuss further mediation.

“The musicians are still looking for an acceptable mediator,” says bargaining committee chair Kim Tichenor.

The players—who are part of the union—have met with federal mediators, but want to bring in someone with experience in orchestra contracts. Unless a mediator is found and unless that mediator brings both sides into agreement, the next season won’t start this fall, and it could be cancelled altogether. While the management has declined to comment, it’s reasonable to say no one wants an abridged season, which could isolate the orchestra’s supporters.