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Arts and Humanities Local News

Stage One to Offer Free Tickets to Some 60,000 Students

Stage One Children’s Theatre announced it will provide free tickets to students for field trips next season.

Under a new program called Play it Forward, the theater will be providing free tickets for kindergartners and first graders on field trips to attend a performance in the fall and for fifth and sixth graders in the spring.

Peter Holloway is Stage One’s producing artistic director.

“Each grade level represents about 15-16,000 kids,” he says. “So between those four levels, you’re talking somewhere of  60 to 79,000 kids.”

Holloway says this program comes in part through underwriting by area companies and foundations.

He says Stage One started the program this after it cut its budget by more than 40 percent over the last 18 months, a move that included closing it scene and costume shop in December.

Holloway says the program has already gotten some solid support from a handful of underwriters.

“The response from potential funders has been great,” he says, “because who doesn’t want to hear the story of — We’ve cut way back on our expenses. We’ve really reduced our overhead, but we’ve figured out simultaneously how to serve a lot more kids.”

Holloway says the program could double attendance numbers for the 64-year-old theater.

Holloway says the drastic cuts Stage One has made to its budget has helped make it possible to reduce costs for schools and students.

“Our current cost for a student to come on a field trip is $7.75,” he says. “So, we’re going to eliminate that amount of revenue, earned income. So, we have to counterbalance that with something. But we realized with all the other savings that we were pulling out of the other side that we didn’t have to raise that much money to make it OK for us to give up that earned income.”

Holloway says Stage One wants to expand this no-cost access to other grades in the future.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Fund for the Arts Launches Public Campaign

The Louisville Fund for the Arts launched the public period of its annual fundraising campaign today. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has details.

A string of arts groups and artists performed in a showcase at the Brown Theatre marking the launch of this last leg of the Fund’s current campaign. It’s raised more than $4 million so far and looks to raise $5 million more for its 27 member groups.

Last year, it raised $8.8 million of its $10 million goal.

Fund president and CEO Allan Cowen says matching grants from Yum! Brands, Brown Forman and the Humana and Gheens foundations are bolstering this campaign. The goal is to at least match the amount raised last year.

Cowen also says the current recession has caused it to work with member groups to trim nearly $3 million from their operating budgets. (In recent months, Stage One has had to cut its budget by 40 percent.) He says the cuts were necessary to make sure that all member groups survive the recession.

“If we don’t priorities now, when economic occurs, things just wont’ be here,” he says. “You will have less or you won’t have programs at all. And I think it’s one of those times you do set priorities.”

But that hasn’t kept the Fund from planning for the future. Cowen announced it is inviting all kindergarten and first-grade students, at no charge, to a Stage One production.

“And the goal is inviting the community into the arts,” Cowen says. “And we think that by beginning it with the youngest children in our community, we will be able to provide a gift to the community and build for great future audiences.”

Cowen says he expects the effort to bring up to 300,000 children to a Stage One performance.

But in the next five month, the Fund for the Arts will be going to nearly 250 businesses in the community for contributions to help it reach its campaign goal.

Related Stories
Artists Suffer Under Recession; Researchers Look at Economic Impact (includes information on Stage One)
Fund for the Arts Campaign at Midway Point

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Arts and Humanities In-Depth News Local News

Artists Suffer Under Recession; Researchers Look at Economic Impact

The recession has cost many Americans their job — including artists. Even those who are self-employed have taken a hit. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer talks to several Kentucky artists feeling the recession and looks at how researchers are trying to find new ways of gauging how their wellbeing impacts the overall economy.

“There’s some stuff that’s been here longer than me,” says Alison Anderson, who creates costumes and is s showing me the shop at Stage One, where she worked for 17 years. “This is costume stock,” she says showing me rows of costumes. “We had built these double racks and we were going to have other double racks built on the other side. But that won’t happen now.”

The children’s theatre company in Louisville laid off all employees in its costume and scene shop last month — including Anderson. She says hearing the news from management was devastating.

“We couldn’t really look at each other, she says. “And nobody really had anything to say because I don’t think that anybody could speak at that moment.”

Anderson says she’s since worked to lineup freelance assignments with other theater companies and schools to create mascot costumes. She says she knows she’ll have to live more frugally now. And while her job loss should show up in federal employment statistics, income losses suffered by other artists likely won’t.

One is Lennon Michalski, a painter who teaches three classes at the University of Kentucky and one at Eastern Kentucky University. He’s represented by galleries in Lexington, Asheville, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C.

“I used to be able to make quite a bit to the point where I could live a very relaxed life,” he says. “I could spend and go out. To now, I’ve had to really boil that down: unable to buy supplies; really leaning on tax deductions.”

A new major survey by a nonprofit group called Leveraging Investments in Creativity reveals Anderson’s and Michalski’s experiences are common among artists in this recession. The report shows about 50 percent of artists surveyed saw a decrease in art-related income and 18 percent report a decline of 50 percent or more. It also shows two-thirds of the artists hold a second job. Judilee Reed is the organizations’ executive director.

“The impact of this is, of course, less income, barriers to affordable health insurance and health care, and a lack of resources to obtain a professional development and training that artists require.” she says.

Reed says our society needs more detailed data on artists to help policymakers make better decisions in supporting them and to understand their role in the economy.

“Surveys like this,” she says, “shouldn’t be any more unique then understanding how the real estate market is faring in this country.”

At the National Endowment for the Arts, Sunil Iyengar — who is head of research — says he agrees.

“Arts workers are, in fact, central, just like other workers, to a clear understanding of the economy,” he says. “They truly contribute to the economic wellbeing of the country through their entrepreneurship, their high rates of self employment, their annual median earnings.”

That’s why the NEA has produced sporadic reports about artists in the workforce for decades. And it’s looking to do and encourage more. It recently convened a roundtable of researchers who study how artists contribute to the economy. Many say they want to see more detailed reports, like those produced by the National Science Foundation, which has a $6 billion budget. It produces reports on a range of subjects, including education and salary levels in science-related fields and the economic impact of science-related industries. It even compiles reports with state-level data.

Iyengar says information in these kinds of reports can attract venture capital for science-related projects. And he says he wants to see the NEA do the same for the nation’s creative culture by leading an effort to raise the integrity and accuracy of data about the arts.

“So, we have a ways to go to really, I think, encapsulate what’s happening with not just artists, but arts workers and cultural workers,” he says.

Iyengar says, eventually, better information could benefit states and even local communities. It could give them relevant data to examine and better understand their economies and support local artists — even in a recession.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Fund for the Arts Campaign at Midway Point

With the local economy still in a precarious situation as the year ends, the Louisville Fund for the Arts annual fundraising campaign is making some strides and working with arts groups to make many adjustments. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

Fund for the Arts president and CEO Allan Cowen says the annual campaign — which is now at its midway point — has fared well despite the economy. The campaign did not set out to top last year’s $8.8 million total or even set a goal, but

Cowen says that navigating a battered local economy has been tricky.

“The downside has to do with there’s some companies that either are different corporate structures now or have different-sized business in Louisville — and how you adjust to that is always a challenge,” he says.

He also has seen employees from many area businesses respond well to workplace fund drives held so far.

“Our fall campaign at places like the [Louisville] Water Company, Baptist [Hospital] East, Norton’s [Hospital] — have all been really stellar,” he says. “They all represent double-digit increases.”

Cowen says the Fund also has worked worked with member arts groups to raise earned income and reduce budgets.

“The 15 percent reduction in expenses has been essentially across the board,” he says. “Virtually every arts group supported by the Fund for the Arts has had to tighten their belts — some even more dramatically than that.”

Cowen says Stage One children’s theatre and Music Theatre Louisville, which merged several years ago, has had to cut its budget up to 40 percent. That contributed to this week’s closing of the theaters’ scene and costume shop.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Arts Groups Offer Discounted Tickets Again This Season

Some Louisville arts groups say they will continue a program that offers discounted tickets to many performances. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

The Kentucky Center, the Fund for the Arts and its member groups launched the Arts Rush program in January. From then through the end of the season, the program sold more than 2,500 $10 tickets that were offered just before nearly 70 performances.

Many arts administration officials say the response dispelled initial doubts about offering discounted tickets. One is Kentucky Center president Stephen Klein.

“There’s always a little bit of a nagging doubt that we’re going to be putting these tickets out; they won’t be valued as much; we won’t have the kind of revenues,” Klein says. “But we’re seeing a lot of people we just haven’t seen before and that’s very healthy.”

Several participating arts officials say the program is helping build audiences, in part, by making tickets affordable to families with children. One is Allan Cowen, the Fund for the Arts president and CEO.

“Arts Rush is, at its heart, built on a simple premise: you make the arts available and you make the arts reasonable and people will utilize the programs,” Cowen says. “And as people rally around the arts, it will build many, many opportunities.”

Klein echoes that sentiment and says it hasn’t hurt the market for full-priced tickets, which secure seats in advance.

“Filling the house is always good — and a lot of the people who buy the rush tickets would not be able to go period, much less for expensive tickets,” Klein says. “A lot of folks still buy the full-price tickets in advance; they know they want to go see a show and they buy the tickets at the full price.”

Throughout this season, seven arts groups are offering rush tickets for more then 90 performances. Click here for a list of performances.

Tickets are sold in person on a first come, first served basis at the box office just two hours prior to the selected performances.