Performing Arts Center seeks $700,000 more from Miami-Dade
By Zachary S. Fagenson
The Performing Arts Center Trust, policy-making body of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, is poised to ask the county for nearly $700,000 to cover operating expenses and capital-improvement projects.
The trust met early Tuesday to discuss current and future budgets, the center's summer schedule and its long-term strategic goals.
The proposed request for the additional funds follows a near doubling of the Arts Center's annual operations subsidy from the county in 2007 to $7.6 million.
The trust is now seeking an additional $113,000 annually to cover an expected 10% increase in insurance costs plus a 2% hike in utilities and security. Additionally, if the trust approves its fiscal 2010 budget at the next meeting, it will ask for a one-time $543,000 capital funds injection that, according to Ken Harris, center vice president of operation, will go toward replacing worn-out building parts and keeping the facility in line with fire- and handicap-access requirements.
As the meeting began, it became clear the lingering recession hasn't spared the arts center.
So far this year, revenues are down 15%. The drop, according to trust Chief Financial Officer John Burnett, was offset by an 18% cut in expenses, leaving a surplus of about $1.3 million.
Almost half the surplus was picked up during February. The same month the center took over six of the now-bankrupt Concert Association of Florida's seven remaining performances.
The center's "staff, committee and others worked diligently to salvage the Concert Association of Florida's season," said trust Chairman J. Ricky Arriola. "It was estimated to have an $800,000 negative impact on the center's operating budget.
"Through additional fundraising and collaboration with presenting companies" the move will ultimately cost the center less than $100,000, he added.
Without the concert association, the Arsht Center finds itself one of the few organizations left it town that can present classical music performances.
"We're going to set the bar very high," said M. John Richard, center president.
He said he expects the center to present seven to nine classical performances next year, a little over half the number the concert association brought into town during this season. Those performances will be in addition to productions other organizations produce at the center.
"We're going to be aggressive," Mr. Richard said. But "we'll see how the community responds."
Meanwhile, the trust previewed its fiscal 2010 budget.
Although there weren't enough members on hand to vote to send it to the county commission, the $36 million budget rings in $4.7 million higher than last year's. The majority of the extra money will go toward funding the "Broadway Across America" series.
The center received $7.65 million in taxpayer money for its 2009 operating costs, $2.73 million of which has already been spent. If approved, the county's share of the 2010 budget will grow to $7.8 million.
Meanwhile, the trust's plan to make a broad appeal to the community has gone from the center's drawing board to desks across South Florida.
More than 50,000 letters went out during the past two weeks asking patrons who have already attended an event at the center to donate $65 to $5,000. In return, members of the newly created Visionary Society will get access to exclusive parties and the patrons' lounge and a chance to buy tickets before the general public.
"Hopefully, this launch will give us a fundraising basis to bring in new patrons," said Evelyn Greer, partner at law firm Hogan, Greer & Shapiro and co-chair of the trust's development committee.
Before the meeting adjourned, the trust also got a preview of the center's summer plans.
Among them are a 120-seat Barton G. restaurant and a 60-seat lounge in the Carnival Tower — the former Sears Tower on the west side of Biscayne Boulevard.
Along with new restaurants, the summer heat will bring performances of "Celia," the International Hispanic Theater Festival, the "Summer Shorts" theater festival and the story of Reggae music's entry into the US titled "The Harder They Come."
While managing the day-to-day operations of the center, the staff and trust are also working to develop a long-term plan.
"If there is one word to describe our mission, we would choose inclusion," Mr. Richard said.
That's why the center is preserving its framework of culturally diverse performances, he said. Audiences can see everything from the Celebrity Chef Series to the Flamenco Festival and work created and performed by local artists.